Food scandals in Taiwan
Tainted products also poison the president’s chances of re-election
Jun 16th 2011 | TAIPEI | from the print edition
TAIWAN’S biggest-ever food scare began when government inspectors testing sports drinks and soft drinks last month detected dangerous levels of industrial plasticisers. These are normally used to make everything from shoes to hosepipes more flexible. Since then, the plasticisers have been found in a range of foods and drinks. The crisis has also gone firmly international as China, Hong Kong, South Korea and the Philippines have withdrawn Taiwanese products from supermarket shelves. Taiwanese commentators are wondering how the government can live the scandal down.
Some 900 products have been pulled from nearly 40,000 Taiwanese shops. Hospitals have been flooded with worried parents seeking check-ups for their children. Diets have swiftly changed. Out have gone processed drinks and even ice cream.
The problems have been traced to two upstream suppliers of food additives, Yu Shen Chemical and Pin Han Perfumery. Among other things, plasticisers were substituted for palm oil as clouding agents in drinks. One plasticiser, known as DEHP, is a possible carcinogen, and thought capable of wreaking havoc with children’s reproductive organs. The inspectors discovered levels far in excess of the daily allowed intake. Insiders have told investigators that products may have been doctored for decades.