Authorities yesterday ordered cooking oil producer Chang Chi Foodstuff Factory Co (大統長基) to halt all manufacturing following findings that its olive oil, grapeseed oil and other products contained illegal additives or other mixtures.
The company also faces the possibility of being fined at least NT$28 million (US$950,900) by the government of Changhua County, where its plant is located.
Yeh Yen-po (葉彥伯), director-general of Changhua County’s Public Health Bureau, said that among the 59 types of cooking oil products seized by authorities from Chang Chi’s factory, 36 could be considered mislabeled, and if the company was fined the maximum penalty of NT$200,000 per case, the amount could reach NT$7.2 million.
Moreover, 34 of the 59 products are suspected of containing the food additive copper complex chlorophyllin, which could result in another fine of NT$3.4 million, he said, adding that seven of the products could also be fined NT$14 million.
The manufacturer’s repeated efforts to avoid government inspections in the past could merit a further fine, bringing the total amount of penalties to NT$25.2 million, Yeh said.
That figure could further rise to more than NT$28 million if the latest seized products are included in the calculation, he said.
Chang Chi’s peanut oil has also been found to contain “zero peanut oil, while its sesame oil is actually made of canola oil,” Yeh said.
The company’s peanut oil is actually made of a mixture of canola oil, salad oil and flavoring essence; its grapeseed oil includes sunflower oil; and its chili oil is not made of red chilis, but only chili pepper extracts, salad oil and flavoring essence, Yeh added.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), copper complex chlorophyllin — the food coloring added by Chang Chi to its olive oil and grapeseed oil to make them look green — is sanctioned for use as a food additive by the UN’s Codex General Standard for Food Additives and many countries.
However, the additive has not been cleared for use in edible oil products, the FDA said, adding that Taiwan follows global standards in excluding its use in edible oil.
Yen Tsung-hai (顏宗海), a toxicologist at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Linkou District (林口), said the accumulation of copper or “a one-time excessive intake of copper could result in certain damage.’
“In some cases it could even lead to hemolytic anemia [which destroys red blood cells] or cirrhosis,” Yen said.