The government yesterday ordered certain food and drink products that use emulsifiers to be removed from stores unless they can provide proof that their products are free of the chemical di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP).
Affected items include sports drinks, juice, tea beverages, syrup and jams, as well as tablet supplements and powdered food products, Department of Health (DOH) Minister Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) said.
All products in the five categories need be certified to be free of the chemical before being put on the market, he said.
According to Chiu, as of yesterday, a total of 40,000kg of juice and jam, 980,000 bottles of tea drinks and more than 2,000 boxes of powdered probiotic products had been recalled.
Retailers in violation of the ban will be punished in accordance with the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法), he said at a press conference held at the Government Information Office following an inter-ministerial meeting chaired by Vice Premier Sean Chen (陳?) on the latest food scare linked to DEHP in bottled beverages.
Because DEHP is not allowed to be used in food ingredients, Chen said the Environmental Protection Administration would also demand that importers and manufacturers of DEHP sign a statement that they do not sell DEHP to food producers.
To calm people’s fears about food and drink safety, the DOH has set up a hotline and established a Web site for people to consult, Chiu said, adding that people can also get advice from 23 hospitals administered by the DOH on health risks caused by consumption of DEHP-tainted foods and undergo necessary check-ups.
In Taipei yesterday, a city laboratory was swarmed by customers with various products after the city’s Department of Health started offering free tests for DEHP in food and drink products.
The service, offered at the department’s laboratory in Shipai (石牌), will be held from 10am to 4pm until Friday next week, and will be available at 12 district health service centers and the service center at Taipei City Hall from June 7 through June 10.
“I worry whether the drink products we bought are toxic or not and I no longer know what’s safe for consumption,” a customer surnamed Chen (陳) said.
In addition to items that have been found to contain DEHP, such as jelly, yogurt sports drinks and juice, customers also brought products from soy sauce to cola drinks for examination.
Lin Che-hsiung (林哲雄), a division chief at the department, said consumers can only ask for one item to be examined and should present valid ID for registration, adding that the items should be sealed and unopened.
Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Justice Chen Shou-huang (陳守煌) said prosecutors with the Changhua District Prosecutors Office yesterday searched 17 companies where they confiscated 127.5 barrels of emulsifiers weighing about 25kg each and 9,906.45kg of food ingredients. The office will continue to investigate the case, while the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office will coordinate prosecutors in other districts to join the crackdown in other counties and cities, Chen Shou-huang said.
The Food and Drug Administration added that as it tracks down more DEHP-tainted products, names of the items and their manufacturers will also be updated each day on the agency’s Web site.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CNA