Consumer Advocates Test Creamer, Coffee Powders in Burma

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 26 November 2013

RANGOON — A consumer advocacy group suspects that some Chinese-made brands of the popular instant creamer and coffee mix enjoyed in Burma may contain dangerous ingredients, the group’s chairman said.

Burma’s Consumer Protection Association (CPA) has sent three samples of nondairy creamers, which are added to coffee, to a laboratory in Thailand for tests, after customers reported suspicions to the organization, chairman Ba Oak Khine told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.

CPA suspects that substandard creamer—made with an inedible by-product of palm oil production—is being imported from China to save on costs. Improper ingredients may also be being used in sachets of three-in-one coffee mix manufactured in Burma.

“Though we can’t say which brands we are sending to Thailand, what we can say is that imported Chinese creamers are using such residues [from palm oil production] to make creamer. It’s really dangerous for our people,” Ba Oak Khine said.

He said, the results of the tests will be ready in late December, when the CPA will announce which brands, if any, are not suitable for consumption.

“We heard that these raw materials come from Malaysia to China and are imported to Burma, we have heard these reports for a long time, but we’re checking it now,” he said, adding that the substandard creamer may also be used by Burmese coffee mix producers.

He said it was also suspected that powdered tamarind skin or the fibers of coconuts were being used in coffee mix, the small sachets sold widely across Burma that contain a combination of non-dairy creamer, instant coffee and sugar—to which hot water is added.

“We will check out such instant coffee mix too, but creamers could affect consumers more quickly than substandard coffee mix in the market,” he said.

Ba Oak Khine said long-term health problems could result if improper ingredients are being used for creamer or coffee mix.

“Though these won’t affect people immediately, it will lead to heart problems and kidney problems,” he said.

There are about 25 local brands, as well as imported brands, of instant coffee mix in the market.

Ko Sithu, marketing manager at leading brand Premier Coffee Mix, acknowledged that some local coffee mix brands, although not his own, were using coconut shell fibers and powdered tamarind shell to give the coffee a strong taste.

“I heard that some waste tamarind is used to mix with instant coffee powder, to get the caffeine taste, but coffee lovers can tell when they mix this kind of powder in the packages,” Sithu said. “I can say we’re not involved in this process.”