A food safety watchdog in southern Vietnam has completed a check on several dozen bottles of Dr Thanh herbal tea, reportedly containing dregs, and it was a beverage distributor, rather than the maker, Tan Hiep Phat Group, that was fined in the end.
Viet Loan Co., based in Ca Mau City, the capital of the namesake province, was fined VND16.5 million (US$737) for not having a food safety certificate, while preserving its products in an unhygienic place, the provincial food administration said Tuesday.
Viet Loan is the drink supplier of Dat Mui café, where a customer reported on December 14 that she was served a Dr Thanh bottle with strange dregs at the bottom.
The Ca Mau food safety watchdog later looked into the beverage distributor and eventually discovered 64 Dr Thanh bottles showing the same signs.
The food administration eventually ruled that Viet Loan had failed to properly preserve the drinks, which led to their contamination.
The distributor was therefore fined VND12.5 million ($558) for lacking the food safety certification and VND4 million ($179) for violating regulations on beverage preservation.
Besides the bottles seized at Viet Loan, Ca Mau food safety officers have also discovered another 72 Dr Thanh bottles containing dregs at a nearby store, but there has been no available inspection result so far.
Dr Thanh, Number 1 energy drink, Zero Degree green tea, and Soya soy milk are all produced by Tan Hiep Phat Group, which is facing a groundswell of public criticism after it won a fly-in-bottle lawsuit against a consumer on December 18.
Vo Van Minh received a seven-year imprisonment sentence on charges of “extortion of assets,” as he had demanded the drink maker pay VND500 million ($23,300) in return for his silence.
Minh was about to get the cash from a company representative on January 27 when police officers, notified by Tan Hiep Phat of what it considered ‘Minh’s blackmail,’ showed up to capture him.
The man is not the only consumer to have found Tan Hiep Phat products containing strange objects, but the company has never been penalized.
The conclusion of the Ca Mau food safety administration on the Dr Thanh case has therefore angered members of the public, who were shocked to see the fine imposed on the distributor rather than the maker of the product with dubious quality.
Many consumers are mocking that whenever the quality of a Tan Hiep Phat product is questioned, those who buy or sell it will be punished, instead of the company that made it.
Tan Hiep Phat has attracted so much public attention that the Vietnam Competition Authority has recently issued guidance on what consumers should do to legally settle a dispute when they find a Tan Hiep Phat product containing flies or other objects.