Tan Hiep Phat hit hard for over-promoting products

August 24, 2020 | 15:59
(0) user say
Local soft-drink maker Tan Hiep Phat has come under heavy fire due to a string of PR articles promoting the unverified property that its products prevent COVID-19.
tan hiep phat hit hard for over promoting products
Than Hiep Phat's drink Dr Thanh was promoted as an anti-coronavirus product

As people are trying to keep themselves safe in the latest wave of the pandemic, a handful of articles recently appeared on social networking sites advertising that Tan Hiep Phat's Dr Thanh drink – on account of its ingredients that commonly appear in traditional medicine – could impede coronavirus thanks. The stories first saw the light of day in late March, the peak of the pandemic and have reappeared since COVID-19 returned.

To date, Tan Hiep Phat has remained silent about the issue.

Worthy of note is that the articles started to be published once the beverage manufacturer shook hands with the local media company Yeah1 Group, which has been twice under the alert of the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange.

Reacting to allegations that Yeah1 has been promoting this function of Dr Thanh drinks, Nguyen Anh Nhuong Tong, chairman of Yeah1 Group told VIR, "Promoting product features is very normal for a media group like our company. However, relating to Dr Thanh and its anti-coronavirus features, we have to check whether the department in charge of PR content was involved.”

Specifically, at a seminar titled “Utilising traditional medicine to save off the health crisis” held in late March, health experts said that many kinds of traditional medicines could prevent the coronavirus.

In particular, the experts recommend the herbal tea Dr Thanh that contains numerous ingredients of medicinal properties, including anti-inflammation, antioxidant, antivirus, febrifuge, and boosting the immune system, among others. In other words, the item was promoted to have the ability to enhance the immune system – one of the vital factors to protecting people from the pandemic.

However, articles appeared in online newspapers with titles like “Experts recommend using herbal tea drink to prevent COVID-19” and “Drinking herbal tea daily helps to preclude COVID-19.” Those articles have been deceptive that Dr Thanh could save people from the epidemic.

The articles led many into a misguided shopping spree. Nguyen Khanh (Binh Tan district, Ho Chi Minh City) shared on his Facebook account, “My mom lives in the countryside where they have less access to up-to-date information. Therefore, when she read this news, she immediately asked me to buy a bunch of Dr Thanh to keep us safe from the pandemic.”

“That is not correct because the best way to protect herself is to keep wearing medical face masks, wash her hands regularly, and avoid going to crowded places. These advertisements are taking advantage of the increasingly complicated pandemic situation,” he added.

Echoing this, Bui Thi Kim Dung (Ho Chi Minh City, District 9) said, “I was duped by the articles when I first read them. After a more careful reading, I found the stories promoted Dr Thanh as a product helping to improve the immune system to confront the virus. The same way, other foodstuffs like milk and restoratives also enhance the immune system, meaning they can all prevent COVID-19. These ambiguous advertisements are unacceptable.”

The Vietnam Food Administration in April and May discovered and issued penalties for nearly 10 functional food products advertised as anti-coronavirus medicine on social networking sites and other websites.

According to Ta Minh Trinh, director of Ocean Stars Lawyers, in case the promotional information stems from the manufacturers and aims to boost sales, it constitutes unhealthy competition which should be fined for about VND50-70 million ($2,170-3,040) following Article 51.5 of the Decree No.28/2017/ND-CP dated March 20, 2017, outlining administrative sanctions on violations in culture, sports, tourism, and advertisement.

“In addition to this fine, manufacturers should be obligated to repair the consequences of untrue advertising by publishing disclaimers,” said Trinh.

Sharing the same view, Le Trung Phat, lawyer of the Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association said that this kind of information is easy to take people off guard and mislead them regarding disease control, especially people who live in rural areas with limited access to updated information. “They could easily rely on Dr Thanh products and ignore other precautions like wearing medical face masks or washing their hands.”

The VFA has just recommended that people must be cautious with the advertisements related to Dr Thanh's properties of preventing COVID-19. Moreover, the authority has been in collaboration with the Ministry of Information and Communications to handle the case under the local regulations.

By Van Anh

What the stars mean:

★ Poor ★ ★ Promising ★★★ Good ★★★★ Very good ★★★★★ Exceptional