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Taiwan informs WHO, other countries of food contamination issue

2011/05/25 22:10:25

Taipei, May 25 (CNA) The Department of Health (DOH) has informedthe World Health Organization (WHO) of its recent discovery of thecancer-causing chemical DEHP in some bottled drinks, an official saidWednesday.

The DOH has also informed the health authorities in China, HongKong, Vietnam, the Philippines and the United States of the incident,since the DEHP-tainted drinks and food additives may also have beenexported to those areas, said Kang Jaw-jou, director-general of theDOH's Food and Drug Administration.

"We have informed the International Food Safety AuthoritiesNetwork (INFOSAN) of the discovery of DEHP in a legal emulsifierproduced by a local food manufacturer," Kang said.

INFOSAN is one of the WHO's six major communication mechanismsand technical conferences. It has seldom received reports from Taiwanabout food safety incidents.

DOH and judicial investigations found that the DEHP contaminationwas mainly the fault of Yu Shen Chemical Co., the largest emulsifiersupplier in Taiwan.

Kang said Yu Shen Chemical illegally added the banned chemicalDEPH to an emulsifier as a substitute for the more expensivepalm oil, in order to cut production costs.

The emulsifier made with palm oil can be used legally as a foodadditive. However, Yu Shen Chemical was found to have added theindustrial plasticizer DEPH to its emulsifier, which was sold to morethan 40 food and drink manufacturers around Taiwan.

Yu Shen Chemical owner Lai Chun-chieh has been detained byprosecutors pending further investigations.

Lai told prosecutors that his company operated production lineson both sides of the Taiwan Strait, which prompted the DOH to informChina twice since Monday of the incident, in accordance with abilateral food safety agreement, Kang said.

"We have not yet received any response from the Chineseauthorities, " Kang said, adding that China may still be inspectingits emulsifier factories or other food additive processing plants.

DOH investigations showed that Young Energy Source Co. hasexported two flavors of its brand-name sports drinks tainted withDEHP to Hong Kong and that DEHP-contaminated emulsifier and foodingredients had been shipped to the Philippines and the UnitedStates.

"We have informed their food safety agencies through diplomaticor economic channels," Kang added.

Nearly half a million bottles of sports drinks and fruit juice,as well as 20 tons of fruit and yogurt powder and 130,000 packs ofprobiotic powder have been pulled off store shelves over safetyconcerns, DOH officials said, adding that they will continue to tracefoodstuffs and beverages that might have been tainted by the toxicchemical.

(By Chen Ching-fang and Sofia Wu)
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