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More than 200 companies affected by new oil scandal
Premier Jiang orders immediate crackdown
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-09-05 03:02 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Officials on Friday announced a list of 235 companies whose products had possibly been made with questionable oil from recycled kitchen waste at the Chang Guann Company as Premier Jiang Yi-huah promised a rapid crackdown.

The lard-based oil had allegedly been sold to companies across Taiwan, including some of its top brand names like Wei Chuan Foods and coffee chain 85 C, the Food and Drug Administration said.

Almost 52,000 barrels, each containing 18 liters of oil, had been sold under the Chuan Tung brand name, according to the FDA. Reports named the man behind the scheme to collect oils for recycling through a phony waste processing company as Kuo Lieh-cheng. Critics accused a court Friday of having let him off lightly by only imposing NT$50,000 (US$1,600) bail even though he reportedly drove a NT$2 million (US$66,800) German luxury car. Prosecutors filed an appeal Friday afternoon to have him detained as rumors emerged that he had emptied his savings account. Chang Guann reportedly bought 242 metric tons of oil from Kuo and converted them into 782 metric tons of lard-based oil.

The range of products having used the problematic oils included meat fibers, bread, cakes, sauces, fish balls and dumplings amongst others, reports said.

At an emergency meeting Friday, Premier Jiang demanded a clear explanation of the extent of the new oil scandal and the removal of all potentially tainted products from shelves over the weekend, while the Ministry of Economic Affairs canceled 12 Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) quality labels for Chang Guann.

By Monday, the Mid-Autumn Festival, lard oil all over Taiwan would be safe to eat, the FDA said. The government body came under fire for claiming that the dubious oil products could not cause cancer. Jiang demanded strong punishments for the guilty parties and ordered the formation of a special taskforce under his deputy, Mao Chi-kuo, to investigate the quality of lard oil.

The government said Friday afternoon that 77 of the 235 companies under investigation had been confirmed as having used the tainted oil products, with more than 8,200 kilograms of questionable products having been taken off the shelves and sealed.

Concern expanded as an estimated 87 schools in Taipei City and New Taipei City alone had reportedly used Chang Guann products in their lunches. The oil had reportedly also been exported to Malaysia, though no problems had been found there yet.

The sale of questionable oil could be fined by up to NT$50 million (US$1.6 million) and prison sentences according to stricter legislation enacted after another scandal less than a year ago. The previous case centered on fake olive oil which included a green coloring agent and low-grade oils. Wei Chuan was also accused of being involved in the previous scandal as it repackaged oils from a questionable supplier under its own brand name to sell to consumers at higher prices. Politicians said Friday that even higher fines might be necessary.

The company announced it was pulling 12 products off shelves, including canned meat fiber and paste, following the latest scare. The products also affected 85 C, which is mostly known for its coffee and cakes, where three types of bread were removed from sale, a company spokeswoman said. She did not exclude the possibility of legal action against the supplier.

Other food producers and restaurant chains listed by the FDA included Yu Jen Jai pastry shop, Chi Mei Frozen Food Co., Haw-Di-I Foods, Kong Yen Foods, Ve Wong Corporation, Taiwan Sugar Corporation (Taisuco), Triko Foods Co. and WHM Co.

Yu Jen Jai denied the allegations and said it might sue the Ministry of Health and Welfare for damages.

Taisuco said its Pingtung County division had brought three barrels of Chuan Tung oil last April and May but had stopped purchases because of the low quality of the product.

In Yunlin County, Okulin Enterprises Co., Ltd., whose products are also known under the name Yilin, was reportedly under investigation for having used problematic oils. The company is reportedly a major supplier of small packages of seasonings and sauces to convenience stores and fast food outlets.

Companies named on the list hurried to present schemes offering refunds to customers and speeding up the withdrawal of products from shops.

The timing of the scandal cast a shadow over Monday’s Mid-Autumn Festival, when mooncakes are a major traditional gift.

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