BANGKOK — A worrying number of beverages marketed as healthy drinks with Vitamin C are giving customers less-than-accurate information about their products, a consumer watchdog said.
In a report released earlier this week, the Foundation for Consumers said it sampled 47 brands of bottled drinks claiming to contain Vitamin C, and found that many of them either had less Vitamin C than advertised, or more than the recommended amount. Eight samples turned out to have no Vitamin C at all, the researchers said.
“When Vitamin C is dissolved in water, there is a high chance of it deteriorating,” Kaew Kangsadalampai, a professor on food and nutrition at Mahidol University, said at a news conference held by the foundation. “It will be gone in a month or two, Therefore it’s not surprising that many brands have no Vitamin C.”
“They were very audacious to make these drinks,” he said.
The market of so-called Vitamin C health beverages is estimated to worth about 5-8 billion baht, said Foundation for Consumers president Saree Ongsomwang.
“Let’s build a culture of calling out the brand’s names, so the quality of products in the market will be improved,” she said.
The eight drinks that did not have Vitamin C when tested are identified as Yanhee Vitamin C water (grass jelly flavor), Nourish Mate Konnyaku Jelly and Carrageenan (strawberry and peach flavor), Me Mix Vitamin Drink Mix in both of their orange and lemon flavors, Minii brand’s lemonade and pink lemonade, Festa C Daily Fiber in lychee flavor, and D.R. Drink’s Genmai Vitamin Water.
Kaew said that the time between production and packaging could be one reason why vitamins are not present in the drinks, as well as a lack of good manufacturing practices.
Vitamin C supplement pills, on the other hand, are rarely exposed to UV light and are better at retaining the vitamin.
In response to the report, Yanhee Vitamin Water said in a statement Wednesday night that they added Vitamin C in their water during production, but it could have dissolved during contact with heat, light, and moisture.
The company also said the dissolved Vitamin C still contains nutrients that could benefit the consumers’ health in the same way.
Visith Chavasit, an expert from the Institute of Nutrition at Mahidol University who is not involved in the studies, said ultraviolet light can contribute to deterioration of Vitamin C in those drinks. He suggested an innovation on packaging material as a possible solution.
“The packaging can be clear, but the bottle would have to be engineered to prevent UV light from getting through. [But] that makes the packaging more expensive,” Visith said.
Too Little, Too Much
Some other brands tested by the Consumer Foundation also contain less Vitamin C than what customers are led to believe.
For instance, Gumi Gumi jelly has 1.41mg of Vitamin C and advertised itself as having “120 percent” of daily recommended intake of the vitamin – the daily recommended amount is actually 60 mg.
Battle energy drinks had as little as 1 milligram, yet their honey flavor drinks said that they had “45 percent” of the daily recommended amount.
A number of brands also have an entirely different kind of problem: they were found to have higher amounts of Vitamin C than what’s written on their labels, and some even exceeding the daily recommended intake, such as Woody C Lock in lemon flavor, which has 502 milligrams of Vitamin C per serving.
Megadoses of Vitamin C, or consuming beyond the recommended daily amount, is usually harmless, as people usually release the excess vitamins via urine. However in some individuals, Kaew said excess Vitamin C could lead to kidney stones.
Food regulatory agencies have yet to make a comment on the latest finding by the Consumer Foundation.
Section 4 of the Article 27 of the Food Act bans food and beverage labels that mislead consumers about “amount, benefits, special properties, or place and country of production,” with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of 100,000 baht.
Kaew, the nutritionist at Mahidol University, said there should be more transparency in the market of so-called healthy drinks.
“It’s good to have water with helpful vitamins to make it even more useful than water, but please be honest in your practices so that consumers get the benefits,” he said.
“But don’t make us nutritionists worried,” Kaew continued. “Emphasize fruits and vegetables to get Vitamin C, since they have other nutrients and fiber as well.”
And here’s the honorable mentions: Consumer Foundation said brands of drinks that have the exact amount of Vitamin C as advertised on their packaging include Purra Vitamin Water, Vit A Day’s lychee and lemon jelly drinks and their orange drink, Cumin C Curcumin drink, Sponsor Active in lemon, Viva+ Vitamins lychee flavor, Jele Beaute’s lemon jelly, and Ready drinks in lemon and lychee.