Narkena Pty Ltd had pleaded guilty to three offences and was fined $6000 for each at the Downing Centre Local Court on Wednesday, almost two years after the December 2013 death of a 10-year-old boy.
“People rely on food being properly labelled,” Magistrate Jennifer Atkinson said while handing down the sentence.
The Green Time Natural Coconut Drink was sold as a fruit drink but following the boy’s death, tests by the Victorian health department detected a common protein found in cow’s milk.
It wasn’t declared.
“The consumption of the drink caused the death of the child,” Atkinson said on Wednesday.
“The food standard requires milk and milk products be declared.”
During a hearing in October, it was revealed the drink was only tested once for allergens by Narkena, despite documents from the manufacturer indicating the presence of dairy products.
And that test was only done in September this year, after the company had pleaded guilty to three charges, including selling food falsely described.
Several further charges against Narkena were withdrawn following the guilty plea, the court heard on Wednesday.
In the October hearing Narkena had argued it was unaware milk products were in that batch of coconut drink.
The company’s business manager Perry Wu had blamed the incorrect labelling on the manufacturer.
But in documents exchanged between Narkena and its supplier from October 2011 to November 2013 there was a declaration that the drinks contained less than 10 per cent dry weight dairy product, with 0.96 per cent condensed milk present.
The Taiwanese product was sold in Asian grocery stores and small independent supermarkets in NSW, the ACT, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia.
As well as the fine, Narkena has been ordered to pay the NSW Food Authority $24,000 in costs.
The Victorian Coroner is due to hold an inquest into the boy’s death.
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