At a Wellcome (頂好) supermarket in Taipei’s Donghu (東湖) area, it’s business as usual. In the brightly lit aisles, shoppers pick up products and put them down, vacillating in a sea of abundance.
Even the oil aisle is looking largely unruffled. Problem brands — such as Wei Chuan (味全公司), Flavor Full (富味鄉), Chang Chi Foodstuff Factory Co (大統長基) and Formosa Oilseed Processing Co (福懋) — have been removed, but their shelf space is fully occupied by bottles of high-end, mostly imported oil.
“The recalled products are at the manufacturers’,” said Eric Tsai (蔡宗樺) of Wellcome’s marketing department.
“I’m not sure how the manufacturer deals with it. I really do not know. I think the government will tell them to destroy it.”
Tsai’s not the only one who isn’t clear about what’s done with the adulterated food. In 2006, dioxin-laced duck eggs were smashed and the ducks were culled. In 2011, beverages with plasticizer were destroyed, the cost footed by manufacturers.
But in the wake of Taiwan’s cooking oil scandal, some recalled products will enjoy a second life.
Flavor Full, forced to recall 800 tonnes of adulterated product, told the Taipei Times that all unopened goods will be reprocessed and sold to foreign manufacturers of edible goods.
Meanwhile, the smaller fraction of opened products will be sold to Taiwanese businesses that can convert the oil to inedible goods. Flavor Full chief marketing officer James Fang (方清輝) said the list of downstream buyers is pending, but that interested industries may be in “personal care products such as soap and oils for massage.”
In Greater Taichung, Formosa Oilseed sold 41 tonnes of its recalled products to Taiwan NJC Corp (新日化), where it will be converted to biodiesel. According to Formosa Oilseed, they sold the cooking oil at NT$18 per kg, for a total of NT$738,000.
In Chiayi, Chang Chi has submitted a proposal to sell part of its recalled products to manufacturers of “biomass energy,” most likely biodiesel, according to Changhua’s public health bureau. Chang Chi has yet to declare a buyer for its 1,282 tonnes of product, but if Formosa Oilseed’s returns are anything to go by, the company could recoup NT$23 million.
WHERE THE MONEY GOES
Government officials say recalled product and their sales income belong to the manufacturer.
According to Article 44 of the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法), relevant authorities can choose to confiscate product if it contains toxic ingredients.
But in the case of Chang Chi, which was fined NT$1.85 billion (US$63 million) in part because it used the illegal coloring agent copper chlorophyllin in some products, the local public health bureau has chosen not to, the bureau confirmed on Friday.
“Execution of the law is at local discretion,” said Chiang Yu-mei (姜郁美), deputy director-general of the central government’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA,食藥署).
“If they feel that the company’s penalties and losses are already great enough, they can allow the company to keep profit from recalled product. But they can order that somehow it must be returned to the consumer, for example in the form of rebates,” Chiang said.
In the case of Formosa Oilseed, the recalled oil has not been confiscated because none contains a toxic ingredient, said the Greater Taichung public health bureau, which is handling the case.