Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2013-12-04 05:30 PM
Yu Shen was found guilty of using the potentially cancer-causing plasticizer diphthalate (DEHP) to replace palm oil as a clouding agent it sold to Uni-President for use in food and drinks. The chemical was produced for industrial use only, to make shoes and other products more flexible.
Appeals were still possible against the verdict, but it was not immediately known whether Yu Shen or its chairman, Lai Chun-chieh, would do so.
The original find of plasticizer led to a nationwide scare which resulted in the recall of about 900 products. According to statistics, more than 460,000 bottles of DEHP-tainted beverages were removed from shelves. The scare also led to the recall of 28,000 kilos of fruit juices, jam and syrups. One of the reasons the plasticizer was used was that it gave the clouding agent a longer shelf life, sometimes of up to six months, than the unadulterated product.
Yu Shen reportedly consumed five tons of DEHP a month to manufacture the clouding agent.
Several countries banned the import of affected Taiwanese products, damaging the country’s exports as well as its image as a relatively safe food producer.
As a result, the government launched the biggest-ever round of food inspections, checking up on more than 16,000 food manufacturers and outlets, and taking more than 20,000 food items off shelves.
The scare later moved to pharmaceuticals, where plasticizers were also found though at lower levels, reports said. Antibiotics and other drugs were withdrawn from sale.
While the discovery of the industrial plasticizer was rated as the biggest food safety scandal in Taiwan two years ago, it has since been succeeded by several other scares, including this year’s adulterated oil scams, where several companies were found to have added low-quality oils and the copper chlorophyllin coloring agent to olive oil while passing the finished product off as expensive imported pure olive oil.
As in the case of the plasticizer, the government has launched a nationwide campaign to track down adulterated products, but this time, legal action is also expected to raise fines and prison sentences for violators.