The chairman of Namyang Dairy Products, one of South Korea's biggest dairy companies, resigned this week after the company came under fire for claims that its yogurt drink can help protect from COVID-19.
Namyang Dairy is being investigated following a complaint filed by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, according to the Korea Herald. Chairman Hong Won-sik, whose family owns a controlling interest in the dairy, announced he will step down. Lee Kwang-bum, Namyang’s managing director and chief executive officer, also offered to quit.
In a symposium on April 13, Namyang’s research institute chief claimed that the company became “the first firm in the country that has discovered fermented dairy products are effective in preventing influenza and COVID-19 viruses,” according to the Korea Herald. It specified the use of its Bulgaris yogurt drink.
“Our experiments showed that Bulgaris helped remove the influenza A (H1N1) virus at a 99.999 percent rate of success, and COVID-19 at a 77.8 percent success rate,” Park Jong-su, the institute chief, had said during the symposium.
Other media reports indicated the company may have done some marketing or advertising of that claim outside of the symposium. Police searched Namyang's Seoul headquarters last week.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency and other experts questioned the validity of the claim, as well as the intentions behind why the company would release research results that had not been clinically demonstrated.