Sunquick orange concentrate manufacturer rejects claims product can be used to treat cough

The manufacturer of a popular orange concentrate beverage in Malaysia has rejected claims its product can be used to treat coughs when consumed undiluted, contrary to false posts circulating in the country since at least 2022 that tout the Sunquick drink as an "effective treatment". Public health specialists separately told AFP patients with chronic coughing should seek proper treatment and warned against health risks associated with prolonged consumption of sugary drinks.

"EFFECTIVE TIPS TO TREAT COUGH," read a portion of Malay-language text overlaid on a Facebook video posted on June 18, 2024.

"Drink Sunquick concentrate for cough," the sticker text continued.

The user went on to claim taking two spoonsful of the concentrate relieved their cough enough for them to sleep and said the treatment was more effective than "drugs from the clinic".

The video -- which has been viewed more than 7,000 times -- featured an image of a bottle of orange concentrate from international beverage brand Sunquick (archived link).

<span>Screenshot of the false post from Facebook, taken on June 20, 2024</span>
Screenshot of the false post from Facebook, taken on June 20, 2024

The same image was shared alongside a similar false claim more than 800 times elsewhere on Facebook here and here, as well as on TikTok here.

Similar claims have circulated on Facebook in Malaysia as early as 2022 and also resurfaced in 2023.

But Sunquick is only intended for use as a beverage and not as a treatment for coughs or any medical condition, said a representative from the drink's manufacturer, Barkath Co-Ro Manufacturing Sdn Bhd (archived link).

"We do not endorse or claim any medicinal benefits of our product," the representative told AFP on June 20, 2024.

Sugary drink

The claim "has no scientific basis", said Universiti Putra Malaysia public health specialist Dr Malina Osman on June 21 (archived link).

"Testimony from the person is only true for the person," she said, and such advice should not be recommended to the general public.

Consuming too much of the undiluted orange concentrate could lead to high sugar levels and increase the risk of diabetes, Malina added.

"The product has been properly labelled and its use is clear as a beverage," said Dr Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh, a public health expert at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia on June 20 (archived link).

Sharifa warned the remedy has not been through any formal trial and could mislead people to incorrectly use it as a treatment.

Both Sharifa and Malina warned that coughs, particularly chronic ones, could be a symptom of more serious underlying conditions such as tuberculosis, and people should consult a licensed medical professional for advice.

AFP has previously fact-checked other purported folk remedies here and here.