The non-profit Consumers’ Foundation yesterday said it would appeal a court ruling that awarded NT$1.27 million (US$43,100) to a group of consumers in a class-action suit against companies accused of using di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, or DEHP, as a food additive.
The foundation filed the lawsuit in March last year on behalf of 568 consumers, seeking NT$7.87 billion in compensation from 37 downstream food distributors after toxic plasticizers were found in several food and drink products in May 2011.
A number of companies involved in the case reached a settlement with more than half of the consumers, and the foundation subsequently lowered its claim to NT$2.4 billion.
Yesterday, the New Taipei City (新北市) District Court ruled that the other 18 companies should pay NT$1.27 million in compensation to the remaining 200 plaintiffs.
The court said it would be unreasonable to ask downstream food distributors to bear full responsibility for the food contamination because they were not aware that Yu Shen Chemical Co (昱伸香料) and Pin Han Perfumery Co (賓漢香料) — the two manufacturers of the additives — were using toxic plasticizers in their products.
The court also cited information published on the Web site of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which said that plasticizers, including DEHP, are excreted from the human body 24 to 72 hours after ingestion and are not harmful to people’s health.
However, Hsu Tse-yu (徐則鈺), attorney for the Consumers’ Foundation, said after the ruling that the FDA’s information reflects only the results of animal experiments conducted in other countries.
“We definitely will appeal the ruling,” Hsu said, adding that the foundation would produce more conclusive evidence after consultations with professionals and academics.
The discovery of toxic plasticizers in food additives in 2011 resulted in widespread recalls and affected food exports, as well as the domestic food market.
The food scare led to the imprisonment of the owners of Yu Shen Chemical and Pin Han Perfumery for 15 and 13 years respectively.
The two companies were accused of adding toxic plasticizers to clouding agents, which are used in a wide range of food products and beverages.