Pattaya health officials conducted surprise inspections of fresh orange juice vendors around the city following photos and videos posted on social media showed producers adulterating the juice with untreated tap water.
The Food and Drug Administration announced a nationwide crackdown Wednesday in response to the uproar over pictures on Facebook, which showed a couple diluting orange juice with water streamed from a garden hose, and then adding sugar and orange food coloring.
A second video posted online captured a juice vendor at Bali Hai Pier adding tap water to concentrated juice, then bottling and selling it as freshly squeezed, sparking local outrage.
Police arrested the first couple in Saraburi Province on Monday, May 23 and they face up to two years in jail and a 50,000 baht fine.
The same day, officials from the Consumer Protection Division, led by Bupha Songsakulchai, led an inspection of vendors selling to Koh Larn ferry passengers and to the Grand Hall Market in South Pattaya.
At Bali Hai Pier, the unidentified vendor shown in the “We Love Pattaya” Facebook page video was not present – he had been missing since the video came out – but fellow seller Supranee Pranpayap, 54, said there was immediate fallout from the scandal.
Supranee, who said she has been selling 200-400 bottles of fresh juice a day for eight years, said she always uses real juice and never dilutes it. But business has fallen off steeply since the videos and photos went online.
Bupha told the media on May 24 that numerous samples were collected and tested and all proved free of bacteria. However, it could not be determined if the juices were freshly squeezed, as claimed, or cut with water or included artificial colors. But she confirmed they are safe to drink.
She said vendors will be invited to a meeting at the Banglamung Health Department to ensure their products are safe and the qualify meets food and beverage standards. Anyone not cooperating or found to be selling substandard juice will have their businesses closed, she said.
Meanwhile, authorities are still looking for the man selling diluted juice at Bali Hai.
Kong Kuritjon, a fried chicken vendor at the pier, said he has seen the juice seller before, but never witnessed him mixing juice concentrate.
Fellow juicer Ratee Kaoropkru, 65, said her product is genuine, but business has plummeted since the video was published.