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Toxic additives tracked to bakeries as scandal escalates

2011/06/04 20:04:02

Taipei, June 4 (CNA) The biggest food contamination scandal toever hit Taiwan further escalated Saturday when health authoritiesfound the toxic plasticizers at the center of the crisis in productsat nearly 30 bakeries and food ingredient stores.

The toxic substances were found in a variety of products,including breads containing fruit jam and ice bars.

"The problem is the jam or fruit syrup fillings, or juices" saidTsai Shu-chen, chief of the Food and Drug Administration's fooddivision.

The suspect products were in the five categories of foods --sports drinks, juices, tea drinks, dietary supplements in tablet orpowder form, and jams, syrups or jellies -- for which authorities nowrequire safety certificates before they can be sold, Tsai said.

She urged bakeries and ice shops that use materials falling underthose categories to verify their supply sources.

Tsai said Lai Chun-chieh, the detained owner of New TaipeiCity-based Yu Shen Chemical Co., one of the two suppliers alleged tohave sold plasticizer-tainted raw materials to food processors, hasbeen willing to divulge the names of only a few of its customers eachtime he is interrogated.

He did not admit until Friday that in addition to sellingclouding agents tainted with the plasticizer DEHP, his company alsosupplied fruit jams with a toxic clouding agent to bakeries andpastry shops.

Clouding agents are common food additives used to make foods andbeverages look more attractive to consumers.

Yu Shen was found to have replaced the more standard palm oilwith DEHP -- an industrial-use chemical used to give plasticsflexibility and durability -- in producing clouding agents.

According to prosecutors in charge of the case, Yu Shen Chemicalsold its substandard fruit jam to a bakery in the Changhua area incentral Taiwan.

When local health officials conducted a surprise check of thestore, all of the breads were sold out, and they were only able toseize raw materials still on the premises, Tsai said.

She also pointed to Champion Flavours Co., a customer of theother main substandard additive supplier Pin Han Perfumery Co., asselling tainted items, including passion fruit, mango, guava, redbean, banana and pineapple flavors and syrups and egg-milk flavorpaste to bakeries.

Local food safety inspectors have tracked the company'singredients to more than 20 bakeries and food stores in the cities ofTaipei, Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung, as well as in Yunlin County,according to the DOH official.

Meanwhile, the New Taipei City government announced earlier inthe day that it has decided to withdraw Yu Shen's business licenseand factory registration after being informed by the Changhuadistrict prosecutors office of Lai's latest confession.

In addition, the city government will fine Yu Shen NT$150,000(US$5,220) for its sales of toxic food products.

(By Chen Ching-fang, Sunrise Huang and Elizabeth Hsu)