Taipei, Aug. 16 (CNA) The Department of Health (DOH) ordered a food company in southern Taiwan to take three kinds of products off store shelves Thursday following reports that tons of substandard milk powder might have made its way onto the market.
Tsai Shu-chen, a section chief of DOH's Food and Drug Administration, said three products from Ascar Food Co. in Yunlin County will be taken off shelves immediately and recalled if they are confirmed to have violated safety regulations.
Two other food companies -- Ching Liang Food Co. in Changhua County, and Guanxin Food Industrial Co. in Tainan -- will have some of their beverages, as well as other cow and goat milk products examined by health officials.
The DOH took the action after the Tainan Prosecutors Office said a day earlier that it had seized 19 tons of suspect milk powder and that a further 10 tons might have reached the market.
The prosecutors said that Guanxin purchased the powder from a salesman identified as Chang Che-cheng of New Tai Milk Products Co. (also known as Fonterra (Ing.) Limited, Taiwan Branch), that was mixed with other raw material to produce goat milk and flavored milk, which was then sold to breakfast shops and schools.
Chang also sold the questionable milk powder to Ching Liang and Ascar at 30 to 50 percent of the normal price.
New Tai Milk Products claimed that the milk powder does not have mold or mildew, but noted that powder about to expire or which has damaged packaging is listed as "not for human consumption."
"The issue highlights a loophole in the recall channel for expired and unqualified food," Tsai said.
She assured the public that baby formula milk is not involved in the substandard milk powder scare.
She noted that baby formula must be registered and approved by the DOH and that all the raw materials are imported, so that there should be no misgivings that locally sold formula has been tainted by the milk powder in question.
Meanwhile, New Tai Milk Products Co. issued a statement saying that one of its salesmen did not follow company procedure for dealing with substandard products, and had indeed sold them to clients.
"The salesman has admitted that he acted alone and that his actions had nothing to do with company policy," New Tai said.
Guanxin said the cheap milk powder it purchased had damaged packaging and was delivered to sheep farmers for use in feed. The company said it had not used the powder in its products.
Several sheep farmers showed up at a news conference called by Guanxin that day to back the company's version of events.
Tainan health officials checked breakfast outlets and products of Guanxin, but found no evidence of unsafe drinks or raw materials.
The nation's highest watchdog body, the Control Yuan, said it has begun a probe into the matter.
(By Chen Ching-fan and Lilian Wu)