Beginning on Tuesday five major categories of food and beverages, including sports drinks, must prove that they are free of six designated chemicals, the Department of Health (DOH) said yesterday.
Amid a nationwide scare over food and drinks contaminated by the chemical di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, or DEHP, Department of Health Minister Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) announced that Tuesday has been set as “D-day” to end the practice of adding any of the six specified chemicals to clouding agents.
“If clouding agents are used in a product in the five foodstuff categories — sports drinks, juice, teas, fruit jam or syrups, tablets or powders — they must provide safety certificates to prove that they are free of the six plasticizers. If they fail to do so, the products will be banned,” Chiu said.
A clouding agent is a legal food additive commonly used in products such as fruit jelly, yogurt powder mix, juice and other drinks to keep the emulsions evenly dispersed and to make the products more visually appealing to customers.
Manufacturers found producing or selling clouding agents that contain any of the six chemicals, including DEHP, will be heavily penalized, with the fines based on the “one case, one penalty” principle, Chiu said.
Food and beverage companies should always be careful with their selection of raw materials and pleading ignorance is no excuse, he added.
“These companies should shoulder their social responsibility and make the public interest their primary concern,” he said, adding that “they might suffer some economic losses, but they would regain the public’s trust.”
Food and Drug Administration Director-General Kang Jaw-jou (康照洲) said the six chemicals his agency is targeting are DEHP, DINP, DNOP, DIDP, DBP and BBP.
He urged distributors to recall all food and beverages that contain clouding agents and to return them to store shelves only after safety certificates had been provided.
At a separate setting yesterday, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) said free product testing for DEHP at the city’s 12 district health service centers would not be limited to Taipei residents and he promised to provide the service to all of the nation’s consumers.
Hau promised to extend the service after a visit to the health department’s laboratory in Shipai (石牌), which has received more than 300 products from worried customers since it started offering free testing on Thursday.
“Our top priority is to assuage people’s fears about food and beverage products, and we urged manufactures and importers to take the initiative to inform consumers about any items that are contaminated with DEHP,” he said.
The testing service, which is available from 10am to 4pm until Friday at Taipei’s 12 district health service centers and will also be available at Taipei City Hall service center from June 7 to 10, was originally limited to Taipei residents.
A customer surnamed Huang from Taoyuan County visited the department’s lab yesterday carrying a box of a Lactobacillus product that his two-year-old child had been eating for more than a year.
“I think every local government should offer such a service for local residents so we don’t have to come all the way to Taipei,” he said.
Chiu Chi-sheng (邱志昇), director of the laboratory, said it took about four hours to process an item and the lab is equipped to handle about 50 products a day.