AVA recalls popular Chun Cui He milk tea over unapproved food additive; no food safety risk to consumers

AVA has recalled the popular Taiwanese Chun Cui He milk tea (second from right) over an unapproved additive. ST PHOTO: JERMYN CHOW
Popular Taiwanese bottled milk tea Chun Cui He (right) has been recalled by AVA for containing a food additive that is not permitted. The recall does not affect the brand’s other flavour, latte (left). PHOTO: ABANA
AVA has recalled Chui Chun He milk tea as the product contains the ingredient L-theanine. PHOTO: AVA

SINGAPORE - Popular Taiwanese bottled milk tea Chun Cui He, or Just Drink- Milk Tea, has been recalled for containing a food additive that is not permitted, said the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) on Tuesday (Aug 23).

The tea contains L-theanine which is currently not on the list of permitted food additive under the Food Regulations of Singapore.

It is an organic compound that is found in certain plants. It can be found in green tea and is thought to have calming properties.

"There is no food safety risk associated with the recalled products," said AVA. "While there is no food safety risk, consumers who have consumed this product and have any health concerns can consult your doctor or seek medical advice."

AVA has banned L-theanine in food and beverages in Singapore. It is recognised as safe by the United States Food and Drug Administration and is sold as a dietary supplement but Germany does not allow it in drinks. Japan, however, has approved the use of the acid in all foods including herb teas and soft drinks.

The Straits Times has learnt that all 7-Eleven convenience stores were told to stop the sale of the drinks in Singapore on Monday (Aug 22).

The decision came after the AVA ran food safety tests on the drinks following revelations that initial tests were incomplete, said sources.

The brand's other flavour, latte, will however remain on the shelves and continue to be sold.

The Straits Times understands that about a million bottles of drinks, worth $2 million, have been sold since the brand's two flavours, milk tea and latte, made their debut in Singapore last month.

When contacted, 7-Eleven confirmed that they were informed by importer Abana about the AVA recall.

A 7-Eleven spokesman said the chain has recalled all remaining stocks of Chun Cui He Milk Tea from the stores and stopped further batch of drinks from being imported.

She added that customers who have unconsumed bottles of the Milk Tea drinks can return them to any 7-Eleven store for a full refund. "We also understand that the supplier is in the process of registering this as an approved ingredient with AVA," said the spokesman.

Besides Singapore, Hong Kong and Korea are the other markets outside of Taiwan that sell the Chun Cui He drinks.

Produced by Taiwanese food company Bifido, the drinks are a common sight in Taiwan convenience stores and are a hit with tourists.

When contacted on Monday, a spokesman said the company, which is based in Taichung, did not hear anything from Singapore about the ban of the drinks.

The company said on its website that it was one of the first few distributors that imported popular Taiwanese snacks like mochi, sun cake and pineapple tarts in 2007.

Singapore fans say the beverages, which are to be consumed chilled, are creamier and smoother than similar offerings by other brands on the market.

The drinks, which cost $2.80 each, have become so difficult to snag that helpful netizens have taken to social media to post updates of specific 7-Eleven outlets that have stock.

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