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Coca-Cola Vietnam fined nearly $20,000 over substandard products

01/08/2016

The Vietnamese business of the U.S. beverage giant Coca-Cola has been subject to a hefty fine for numerous violations, including the sale of products of lower standards than claimed, health inspectors said Thursday.

On top of the VND443 million (US$19,777) civil fine, Coca-Cola Vietnam is also required to recall a batch of Samurai strawberry-flavored energy drink bottles, according to a decision signed by Nguyen Van Nhien, deputy head of the inspectorate under the Ministry of Health.

The penalties result from a comprehensive inspection of Coca-Cola Vietnam that began on June 21.

Inspectors have found the beverage maker producing supplementary foods at its plants in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and a branch in the central city of Da Nang, without a food safety certificate.

A batch of Samurai bottles, produced on May 24, 2016 with a one-year expiration date, has a lower content of folic acid, or vitamin B9, than claimed. Those products that were consumed prior to the forced recall campaign were worth VND234 million ($10,446).

The drink company is required to recall as many affected products as possible and has to report the result to the health ministry once completed.

On June 23, the health inspectorate also suspended the sale of 13 different types of Coca-Cola products, classified as nutritional supplement drinks, as the beverage maker was not certified to produce them.

The product lines include Minute Maid Nutriboost (with mango, orange and strawberry flavors), Samurai energy drink (glass and PET bottles with strawberry flavor), Teppy Orange Drink, Aquarius mineral sports drink, and Dasani with added minerals and nutrition, according to the ministry’s inspectorate.

The company only obtained the necessary papers to produce these drinks on June 28 and July 1.

However, those products that were manufactured prior to these dates are still considered against the law, and will have to pass relevant quality tests to be able to sell on the market, said Dang Van Chinh, head of the inspectorate under the Ministry of Health.

The VND443 million fine levied on Coca-Cola Vietnam is the second biggest civil penalty ever for a drink maker in the Southeast Asian country.

In May, the Ministry of Health imposed a VND5.8 billion ($259,144) financial penalty on URC Hanoi Co. Ltd. for excessive lead content in its C2 bottled green tea and Rong Do (Red Dragon) energy drink.

The health ministry announced in August 2015 that it would carry out a comprehensive inspection at four major drink makers within this year.

The two other companies to be inspected are Suntory PepsiCo Vietnam Beverage and Wonderfarm, known for such products as winter melon tea, passion fruit drink and bird nests.

Coca-Cola Vietnam has responded swiftly to the decision of the health inspectorate.

All Coca-Cola plants in Vietnam have been certified and licensed to produce soft drinks, non-carbonated drinks and bottled beverages, the company said.

Nguyen Khoa My, head of public relations with the drink maker, said in a statement that the company had recalled the affected Samurai products as requested.

However, My asserted that the lower content of vitamin B9 in the product does not affect the safety of consumers.

“[Even so], Coca-Cola Vietnam will pay the civil fine on the Samurai products,” the document reads.

The statement also reiterates that the company has obtained papers to produce nutritional supplement drinks at its plants in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang.

TUOI TRE NEWS

Updated : 07/29/2016 11:26 GMT + 7

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