2011 Taiwan food scandal
The 2011 Taiwan food scandal was a food safety scandal in Taiwan over the use of the plasticizer DEHP to replace palm oil in food and drinks as a clouding agent. The chemical agent has been linked to developmental problems with children as it affects hormones.
The food affected includes beverages, fruit juices, bread, sports drinks, tea, and jam.
After two years of investigations, the Taiwanese government levied NT$1.2 million (approx. US$40,000) in fines against 37 companies, or slightly more than US$1000 per company.
In mid May 2011, Taiwanese authorities reported that two Taiwanese companies Yu Shen Chemical Co. and Pin Han Perfumery Co. were using plasticizer DEHP in clouding agents the firms manufactured. This was used as a substitute for palm oil in clouding agents as a way to keep cost down and improve profits. However, Wei Te Chemical Co., a manufacturer of clouding agents, claims that "the reason most businesses tended to utilize illegal clouding agents was not because of price, but rather the long preservation periods and esthetically pleasing effect of using DEHP-laced products."
Near the end of May 2011, the Taiwanese government had begun seizures of contaminated products and announced a ban from exporting. Later, the list for government safety checks was extended to syrups, tablets, pastries, and powders. By 27 May 2011, "up to 465,638 bottles of DEHP-tainted beverages have been pulled out from store shelves. Also, up to 270,822 boxes and 68,924 packs of powdered probiotics and 28,539 kilos of fruit juices, fruit jam, powder and syrup, and yoghurt powder have been removed from shelves", according to EcoWaste Coalition and a report from Taiwan's Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
As of mid June, there are roughly 900 products which have been recalled from nearly 40,000 Taiwanese retailers. Some media reports, including in The Economist, conclude that Taiwan's former reputation as a reliable and safe food manufacturing country has been damaged.
Taiwanese prosecutors alleges that one of the company Yu Shen at the centre of the crisis has used 5 tonne of DEHP every month to manufacture clouding agents which is supplied to food processing firms and pastry shops. There were 95 Taiwanese manufacturers which has used the DEHP ingredient. A further 244 ingredient manufacturing firms had also used the DEHP.
Chinese mainland authorities banned 812 products from the original list of 22 from Taiwan. This include sports drinks, tea, jam, juices, and other beverages. China later upgraded the banned list to cover 1004 products.
Hong Kong authorities started monitoring its residents for contamination. They banned two types of Taiwanese sports beverage called Speed. Hong Kong's health secretary York Chow stated that because the ingestion of the carcinogen will be a health risk, he supported an outright ban of the DEHP agent.
Macau health authorities found the antacid Scrat Suspension was tested positive for DIBP who later issued a notice of recall to local importers and pharmacies. Standard Chem. & Pharm Co. had notified its retailers to pull the product off the shelves in Taiwan and Macau.
Malaysian authorities found some bubble tea products were contaminated with DEHP and the importers were instructed to halt importation and ceased distribution of the products in Malaysia.
The Philippines authorities banned DEHP affected products and carried out investigations of importers to ensure affected products were recalled.
Vietnamese health authorities raided and restricted importation of Taiwanese contaminated products.
South Korea banned products affected by DEHP from Taiwan.
Ma Ying-jeou has said that the government health units have launched the nation's largest-ever action to secure food safety by checking up to 16,000 food makers and outlets and removing from sales stands over 20,000 food and beverage items suspected of being contaminated with DEHP.
Health officials have inspected over 14,000 food vendors and stores around the island, taking over 20,000 products off shelves.
Ma has been criticized by the opposition DPP for his handling of the scandal. Opposition spokesperson Lin Yu-chang pushed the Ma Ying-jeou administration to come out with a new "D-Day" to combat the national plasticizer scare. The KMT criticized the DPP for their inability to detect DEHP while it was in power. They pointed out that DPP legislator Huang Sue-ying spoke against placing DEHP on the EPA's class-1 control list of toxic substances. KMT legislator Chiu Yi also alleged that the DPP had ties with the owner of the Yu Shen Company, Lai Chun-chieh. Lai's son also claimed on his Facebook that DEHP was not responsible for cancer, contrary to studies that show otherwise.
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