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New Taipei to fine tainted Chinese chili powder importer NT$2 million

03/03/2024 08:53 PM
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A Taoyuan City government worker prepares to seal products from new batches of the tainted Chinese chili powder in this photo released on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Taoyuan City government March 3, 2024
A Taoyuan City government worker prepares to seal products from new batches of the tainted Chinese chili powder in this photo released on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Taoyuan City government March 3, 2024

New Taipei, March 3 (CNA) A New Taipei-based company, which imported chili powder from China later found to contain a carcinogenic dye banned for use with foodstuffs in Taiwan, will be fined NT$2 million (US$63,335) for failure to immediately inform downstream companies to initiate a product recall, the city government said Sunday.

Investigators found that Bao Hsin Enterprises Co., a food raw material dealer, imported chili powder containing Sudan III, an industrial dye that cannot be used for food processing in Taiwan, from China and supplied it to downstream food companies across the nation.

Even though Bao Hsin was informed that its imported chili powder was substandard by some of the downstream companies it supplied, prior to the incident becoming national news, it did not immediately notify other downstream distributors to initiate a product recall, the New Taipei Department of Health said in a statement following an investigation.

The company not only affected its own reputation, but also implicated other brands, the department said.

The department added that had Bao Hsin not ignored warnings from downstream companies, the incident could have been prevented in advance. Additionally, the company neglected its responsibilities as a food business operator.

In response, the city government decided to impose a fine on the company for violating the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation.

The Act stipulates that upon discovery food products may be harmful to sanitation and safety, food businesses shall immediately cease manufacturing, processing, sale and recall such products voluntarily and report to the municipal or county/city competent authority.

The case came to light when the Yunlin Public Health Bureau reported on Feb. 8 that it found in late January that the red chili powder used by a company in the county's jurisdiction to contain 18 parts per billion (ppb) of Sudan III.

Taiwan Food and Drug Administration Deputy Director Lin Chin-fu (林金富) said at a news conference on Feb. 21 that the source of the tainted chili powder had been traced to Bao Hsin.

Sudan dyes are a group of industrial dyes consisting of several red colors -- including Sudan I, II, III, and IV -- which are listed as toxic chemical substances by the Ministry of Environment's Chemicals Administration.

Bao Hsin head Liu Ching-shih (劉慶士) was taken into custody Saturday, after being brought in for questioning with four members of the company's management, the New Taipei District Prosecutors Office said.

Four other people were released, with Liu being held incommunicado as he is suspected of having engaged in fraud and could therefore try to collude, tamper with witness testimony or destroy evidence if released, according to the office.

(By Wang Hung-kuo and Evelyn Kao)

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