Taiwan - AVA Recalls Taiwanese Bottled Milk Tea Over Unapproved Food Additive

Legal News & Analysis - Asia Pacific - Taiwan - Regulatory & Compliance

29 August, 2016


The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority ("AVA") has recalled a popular Taiwanese bottled milk tea, Chun Cui He Milk Tea, as it contains the food additive L-theanine. Approximately 1 million bottles of the drink have been sold since the brand was introduced in Singapore last month. The drinks are also sold in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea. The recall only affects the milk tea flavour, and not the latte flavour which is sold under the same brand.


L-theanine is an amino acid analogue which can be found in some plants. It is not on the current list of permitted food additives, under the Food Regulations of Singapore. The unapproved food additive was discovered after the AVA ran food safety tests on the product, following revelations that preliminary tests had been incomplete. Nonetheless, the AVA has clarified that there are no food safety risks associated with the recalled product.


The food additive is approved in countries such as Japan and can be found in dietary supplements sold in the United States. Germany has also banned the use of L-theanine in drinks.


Under section 49 of the Sale of Food Act (Cap 283), it is an offence to sell any food containing a prohibited substance. The penalty is a fine not exceeding SGD 5,000 (about USD 3,700). In the case of a second or subsequent conviction, the penalty is a fine not exceeding SGD 10,000 (about USD 7,400), and/or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 months.


Separately, the penalty for importing any food containing an unapproved food additive under the Food Regulations is a fine not exceeding SGD 1,000 (about USD 740), and in the case of a second or subsequent conviction, a fine not exceeding SGD 2,000 (about USD 1,500). 


For further information, please contact:


Andy Leck, Principal, Baker & McKenzie.Wong & Leow