x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

UAE takes no chances with Vimto recall

Authorities detect contaminant believed to be mould. in popular soft drink.

Contaminants in the Vimto fruit drink prompted a recall of the product. Rich-Joseph Facun / The National
Contaminants in the Vimto fruit drink prompted a recall of the product. Rich-Joseph Facun / The National

ABU DHABI // Inspectors emain on the lookout for any bottles of tainted Vimto that a nationwide recall might have missed.

The recall for 250-ml bottles of the fruit drink came after authorities detected a contaminant, believed to be mould.

The problem was first spotted in Ajman and Fujairah, whose authorities alerted the Ministry of Environment and Water.

That led to the cross-country recall for Vimto, which is distributed by Aujan Industries, a company based in Saudi Arabia.

The alert was sent out to food control authorities in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman and Fujairah, all of which sent their inspectors to food outlets to put the recall into action.

In Abu Dhabi emirate, the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority's inspectors visited every food outlet selling the product, and collected samples from outlets in the capital, Al Ain and the Western Region to be sent for further tests, to find out which batches were affected. In the meantime, all bottles were ordered off the shelves.

"We check if the food product is compliant with our standards," said Dr Salama Al Muhairi, the head of the laboratory. "If there is a problem, we issue the results in a report with all the parameters per sample to the field operation division, which then takes action. All items are then 100 per cent removed from the market."

But in case any bottles slipped the net, inspectors are still keeping an eye out for them.

Much the same happened in Dubai, where the municipality's department of food control seized 3,675 bottles of the drink last week.

"When we receive an alert from any emirate, GCC country or Europe, we take immediate action and find out if it's produced in Dubai," said Shaima Al Tenaiji, the municipality's deputy head for food studies and planning.

If the product does come from a Dubai-based factory, the municipality tracks it down.

"We try to find which factory imports this specific product and get all its specifications in hand," said Ms Tenaiji.

The factory then runs any recall, under municipal supervision. Municipal inspectors collect a sample of the product from the market. "We immediately check for the production and expiry dates," said Ms Tenaiji. "When we recall the items, they are a specific batch from a specific production date."

The municipality collected every bottle of Vimto produced after November 1, some of which went to its lab. The rest have been impounded in a municipal warehouse. They will eventually be destroyed or sent back to Saudi, and no more will be imported until the precise cause of contamination is established.

"In the Vimto drink, we found physical and microbiological contaminations but not at high risk because it's just mould," Ms Tenaiji said. She said the likely causes were bad seals on some bottles, a hazardous ingredient, poor processing or a leakage.

"We discussed it with Aujan Industries and [the factory in] Saudi will take action and investigate because the problem is from their side," Ms Tenaiji said.

"We make sure every shop selling the contaminated drink has them removed through a written report from inspectors with the exact number of bottles."

cmalek@thenational.ae