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Vietnam suspends five containers of Philippine beverages for high lead content

Thursday, May 26, 2016, 17:14 GMT+7

Five containers of green tea and energy drink products from the Vietnamese unit of leading Philippine food and beverage firm Universal Robina Corporation (URC) have been stopped from retailing in Vietnam due to excessive amounts of lead, an official of the Ministry of Health said.

Of these, the lead content in two batches of bottled lemon green tea C2 produced on April 2, 2016 and January 11, 2016 was 0.085 mg/l and 0.46mg/l, respectively, Nguyen Van Nhien, deputy chief inspector of the health ministry said.

He added that the lead content in three batches of strawberry energy drink Rong Do (Red Dragon) produced on February 19, 2016, January 14, 2016, and November 10, 2015 were 0.053 mg/l, 0.21 mg/l, and 0.068 mg/l, respectively.

The lead content in each is higher than the allowable level of 0.05 mg/l, according to the deputy chief inspector.

The health ministry’s inspectorate has told URC Vietnam to submit reports about the number of its beverages produced and sold, and requested it to recall them for further testing.

The inspectorate under the Ministry of Health is scheduled to continue looking into food safety issues at URC Vietnam, including ingredients, additives, water sources, and detergents that the drink maker uses to produce the beverages.

Previously, the Vietnam Food Administration under the Ministry of Health had taken ten samples of citric acid, an ingredient used to produce the drinks, and of URC Vietnam’s products, with test results saying on May 13 that the lead content found in all ten samples were within legal limits.

The food watchdog added that these were only “initial results,” saying that the inspectorate under the Ministry of Health was slated to continue looking into the issue.

On May 7, a test report of the National Institute of Food Control was spread on social media, stating that lead content in a sample of citric acid used by URC Vietnam stood at 0.84mg/kg, higher than the allowable level of 0.5 mg/kg.

This sparked concern among local consumers that the C2 and Rong Do drinks are unhealthy, though a URC Vietnam representative toldTuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporters that the drink maker suspected its competitors of trying to disrupt its business.

URC is one of the largest consumer food and beverage companies in the Philippines. Its Vietnamese unit is among four major beverage makers to undergo a comprehensive review by the health ministry this year.

The other three companies are Coca-Cola Vietnam, Suntory PepsiCo Vietnam Beverage, and Wonderfarm, known for such products as winter melon tea, passion fruit drink and bird’s nests.

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