The ongoing di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, or DEHP, scare is set to cost Taiwan’s food sector at least NT$10 billion (US$348 million), Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang (施顏祥) said yesterday.
Annual sales of five categories of products that are possibly tainted with DEHP — sports drinks, juices, tea drinks, fruit jams or syrups and tablets or powders — account for about NT$100 billion, Shih said.
Based on Taiwan Chain Stores and Franchise Association’s (TCFA, 台灣連鎖暨加盟協會) estimates that retailers will see a 10 to 20 percent drop in revenue amid the crisis, Shih said the losses may total more than NT$10 billion.
In a move to assuage public fears in food safety, the ministry yesterday afternoon called a press conference together with 12 major retailers to vow to ensure products currently displayed on store shelves are “safe to consume.”
These retailers included Taiwan’s four major convenience store operators: President Chain Store Corp (統一超商), Taiwan FamilyMart Co (全家便利超商), OK-Mart Co and Hi-Life International Co (萊爾富).
The other eight vendors were supermarket and hypermarket chains A.mart (愛買), RT-Mart (大潤發), Carrefour, Taiwan Sugar Corp (台糖), Simple Mart (美廉社), Wellcome Supermarket (頂好超市), Matsusei Supermarket (松青超市) and Pxmart (全聯實業).
The ministry said 80 percent, or 16,064, of the outlets operated by these 12 retailers across the country had been inspected so far.
Local manufacturers have been engulfed in a food scare after some of their products tested positive for DEHP.
Yu Shen Chemical Co (昱伸香料) and Pin Han Perfumery Co (賓漢香料) have been found to use DEHP, and diisononyl phthalate, or DINP, respectively, in clouding agents they sold to food processors.
“We are widening the safety guarantee measures from five categories of products to 10,” James Hsieh (謝健南), chief operating officer at President Chain Store, which runs 7-Eleven, said at the press conference.
President Chain Store is demanding manufacturers from which it purchases dairy products, coffees and breads to offer DEHP-free proof before putting them on the shelves, he said.
Lower-cost supermarket Simple Mart sees its beverage sales taking a blow.
“Drinks account for a big chunk of our product offerings ... We have fully complied with the government’s orders [in protecting consumers’ interests],” said George Hsieh (謝仲平), purchasing manager of Mercuries and Associates Ltd (三商行), the operator of 218 Simple Mart outlets in Taiwan.
With the DEHP scare expected to continue for some time, TCFA secretary-general Winnie Hung (洪雅齡) said local vendors’ bullish views on summer business have now been crushed, despite the government’s relaxation of rules allowing free Chinese individual tourists to come to Taiwan beginning later this month.
“We hope the government shows seamless coordination in tackling this thorny issue. We don’t want Taiwan’s image of being a ‘food heaven’ to be tarnished,” she said.