Dabur Nepal under fresh fire after godown raid

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : Dabur Nepal, one of the largest multinationals in Nepal, faced fresh fire Thursday, three days after an official raid on its godown in southern Nepal, with police beginning a probe into allegations that five people fell ill after drinking its Real brand fruit juice.

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The new development occurred in Banepa, a small town 26 km east of Kathmandu, where four members of a family and their guest sought treatment saying they took ill after drinking Real juice.

Harikumari Humagain, 56, her daughter-in-law Parvati, 33, two granddaughters Prakriti, 14, and Smriti, 12, and Parvati’s sister Chandika, 22, who was visiting them, were admitted to the Scheer Memorial Hospital in Banepa Wednesday after they reportedly felt dizzy and weak.

“They brought cartons of Dabur Real fruit juice, saying they had fallen ill after drinking it around 4 p.m. Wednesday,” Scheer’s attending physician Arun Gupta told IANS.

“However, they did not show any sign of food poisoning. Police came and took away the cartons for investigation.”

Harikumari had been admitted to the intensive care unit Wednesday after her pulse fell. By Thursday, both she and the others had been discharged.

While the illness could also be attributed to the cold and other personal health factors, with the recent slur against Dabur Nepal that it had post-dated its fruit juice cartons, a section of the media seized the incident to whip up an anti-Dabur Nepal campaign.

Police said they had raided the shop in Banepa that sold the juice to the Humagains and would dispatch the seized cartons to Kathmandu Thursday for tests at the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control laboratory.

Inspector Santosh Tamang said police had begun investigations on the basis of preliminary complaints.

The new incident comes after Nepal’s state watchdog, the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), accompanied by the Department of Revenue Investigation, and Department of Food Technology and Quality Control, raided Dabur Nepal’s godown in southern Nepal Monday after complaints of manufacturing irregularity.

Over 74,000 cartons of Dabur Nepal’s Real brand of fruit juices were sealed after they were found to contain January manufacturing dates though the juice had been readied in November, CIAA spokesman Ishwori Prasad Poudel said.

Samples from the godown had been forwarded to the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control laboratory for tests, Poudel said.

While Dabur Nepal had been asked to stop the sale and distribution of the sealed cartons, Poudel said its factory had not been affected and manufacturing was on.

The factory in Bara near the Indian border is the major manufacturing centre for Dabur Nepal’s Real brand of fruit juices, which is exported to India, Bangladesh and other countries.

The raid came after complaints by the Forum for the Protection of Consumers’ Rights.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at [email protected])