The importer of a coconut drink linked to the death of a 10 year-old Melbourne boy in 2013 was fined AUD $18,000.
Narkena Pty Ltd – a food importer based in Sydney, Australia – had pleaded guilty to three charges relating to the packing and labeling of Greentime Natural Coconut Drink imported from Taiwan.
Australia’s New South Wales Food Authority determined the drink contained condensed milk which was not declared on the label. The product was recalled after the child’s death.
“It is relevant that the death of a child precipitated the investigation and led to the charges,” said Jennifer Atkinson, the local magistrate who imposed the fines. “The company relied on the information from the manufacturer rather than making its own inquiries.”
The company was fined $6000 for each of three charges and ordered to pay an additional $24,000 for costs related to their investigation. The maximum fine that could have been imposed was $10,000 for each charge.
“If you import from countries that are non-English speaking, it is really important to get the correct information, to get it right because food allergy is not just about people complaining about a food choice. It can be a life and death issue,” said Maria Said, president of Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia.
“An ingredient list is critical for someone with food allergy. It is important that they can make informed choices and that they are not left in a situation where a person can suddenly become very unwell and at worst die because of the sip of a drink.”
She said there had now been more than 26 coconut product recalls in Australia.
“This child’s death was in 2013. The recall for this particular coconut drink was in January 2014. It took another child having an anaphylaxis in mid- 2015 before anything was done to look to see if there were further problems with imported coconut products.
“It is abysmal that we have these products on shelves that can take lives because people haven’t put two and two together and done the research and investigations that could have been done in 2014.”