EcoWaste Coalition Uncovers Fake Nestle Mugs Tainted with High Levels of Lead

Counterfeit mugs bearing brand logos and trademarks of Nestlé, the world’s largest food and beverage company, are tainted with high levels of lead, a potent neurotoxin (nerve poison) that can permanently damage the brain.

The EcoWaste Coalition’s Task Force on Chemical Safety issued the warning after analyzing 10 bogus mugs with KitKat, Milo, Nesvita and NESCAFÉ logos, sold from P20 to P35 per piece, that are enjoying brisk sales in bargain shops and sidewalk vendors in Divisoria, Quiapo and Sta. Cruz, Manila.

Through a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, the group found huge amounts of lead in all the 10 samples in the range of 3,470 to 76,200 parts per million. Significant traces of other heavy metals such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium and chromium were also detected.

“We decided to make public our findings after receiving a written reply from Nestlé Philippines confirming the brazen misuse of their brand logos and trademarks in these unauthorized mugs,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of Project Protect, EcoWaste Coalition.

"In the interest of consumer safety, we request Nestlé, together with responsible government agencies, to root out these toxic counterfeits and publicly reject the use of lead glazes and paints in mugs and other dinnerware,” he said, “as products designed for eating and drinking should not contain health-damaging substances such as lead, an irreversible toxin.”

As confirmed by Edita A. De Leon, Senior Vice-President and Head of Corporate Affairs Department, Nestlé Philippines “is not responsible for the manufacture and distribution of the mugs in question.”

“The mugs are undoubtedly manufactured by businessmen intent on riding on the popularity and goodwill of our brands, without any regard to public safety,” she pointed out.

“The mugs you have sent provided us with additional clues to aid our current investigation, for which we thank you,” de Leon said as she recognized the EcoWaste Coalition’s“ invaluable assistance in (the) company’s campaign against counterfeits."

Nestlé Philippines had requested the joint assistance of the Food and Drug Administration and the Intellectual Property Office "to clear the market of the subject mugs as soon as possible."

According to the XRF analysis conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition:

1. A fake KitKat mug had 76,200 ppm of lead, 13,100 ppm of cadmium, 8,304 of arsenic, 3,080 ppm of antimony and 525 ppm of chromium.

2. A fake Nesvita mug had 22,000 ppm of lead, 1,990 ppm of cadmium, 3,510 ppm of arsenic and 1,203 ppm of antimony.

3. All the 7 fake mugs bearing the NESCAFÉ logo had lead ranging from 3,470 to 16,700 ppm, as well as considerable amounts of antimony, arsenic, cadmium and chromium.

4. A fake Milo mug had 7,580 ppm of lead, 2,943 ppm of cadmium, 1,322 ppm of arsenic, 634 ppm of antimony and 1,801 ppm of chromium.

Arsenic, cadmium and lead are listed in the World Health Organization’s “10 chemicals of major public health concern,” as well as in the “Philippine Priority Chemical List,” along with chromium.

“Our latest probe shows that counterfeit food and beverage products pose real health and safety risks. Consumers should be extra vigilant and not fall into the trap just because counterfeits are cheaper. Irreparable brain damage due to lead exposure can be very costly in the long run,” Dizon noted.

Republic Act 8293, or the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines, penalizes the unauthorized use of registered trademarks and logos with fines ranging from P50,000 to P1,500,000 and/or imprisonment from 6 to 9 years.

The EcoWaste Coalition is a national network of more than 150 public interest groups pursuing sustainable and just solutions to waste, climate change and chemical issues towards the envisioned Zero Waste 2020 goal.