Two 14 year old girls expose Ribena in New Zealand

Originally published in icon Issue 1 2007

You may have seen all those large dispensers in your hospital containing ready-to-drink vitamin C-rich Ribena.  We have told you before that, in our opinion, glucose-rich drinks are the last thing that cancer patients should drink (glucose is the favourite food of a cancer cell). Now GlaxoSmithKline, the world’s second largest food and pharmaceutical company, has been fined over US $150,000 having pleaded guilty to breaching New Zealand’s Fair Trading act over the ready-to-drink juice.

Two 14 year old students from Auckland, Anna Devathasan and Jenny Suo, decided to test the product Ribena as part of their school project to see if it really did meet its promotional ‘rich in vitamin C’ claims (for example one saying ‘the blackcurrants in Ribena have four times the vitamin C of oranges). Finding less than 22 mgs of vitamin C per 100 mls, and four times less than contained in similar orange drinks, they complained to GSK but were ignored. So the girls went to New Zealand’s consumer watchdog, the Commerce Commission. Result? GSK ended up in court facing 15 breaches of the Fair Trading Act, each one with a possible US $1million fine. After pleading guilty, the judge further ordered that GSK should place ads telling the truth about the product. The judge described GSK’s behaviour as a ‘massive’ breach of trust between the ‘health company’ and the public. (The Nation/Reuters)

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