Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers yesterday accused the National Science Council (NSC) of concealing information relating to the adulteration of edible oil for two years, and a non-profit company of malfeasance for issuing good manufacturing practice (GMP) certificates to the two companies at the center of the scandal — Chang Chi Foodstuff Factory Co (大統長基) and Flavor Full Food Inc (富味鄉).
A research project on sesame oil products sponsored by the council in 2011 found that four of the seven products on the market contained between 31 percent and 44 percent soybean oil, but the council did not disclose the full project report and has refused to provide details, DPP Legislator Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟) told a news conference.
Chao said the council has tried to conceal the results of the report for unknown reasons.
He also questioned the role that two National Taiwan University professors — Su Nan-wei (蘇南維) and Lee Min-hsiung (李敏雄) — played in the research project.
Su, who jointly proposed the research project with Flavor Full, served as the project leader, but did not release the complete report, while Lee, who often attended meetings of experts on oil products along with Su, was hired by Flavor Full as its supervisor in 2008 and has served as the representative of the company’s Hong Kong affiliate since July this year, Chao said.
The position could be Flavor Full’s reward to Lee, Chao alleged.
Responding to the accusations, Chiu Jeng-jiann (裘正健), director-general of the council’s Department of Life Sciences, said the council handles about 20,000 research projects annually and it was not possible to know all the details of each project.
However, he added that the council was only a sponsor of the project involving Flavor Full, and Su, as the project leader, could choose whether to immediately make the report public or to disclose it after one or two years.
At a separate press conference, DPP Legislator Liu Chien-kuo (劉建國) accused the Food Industry Research and Development Institute of wrongly issuing quality certifications to the two firms.
The institute was established with the mission of assisting in the formulation of general policies for the food industry’s development while at the same time serving as a consultant, he said.
The institute received a service fee of NT$2.53 million (US$86,000) from Chang Chi and Flavor Full over the past two years while serving as the chief licensing examiner for quality certification in the nation, Liu said.
By “playing the dual role of a player and a referee,” the 17 GMP certifications it gave the two companies were nothing more than “waste paper,” he said.
“How can you charge for consulting services and still maintain fairness in conducting food safety inspections?” Liu asked.
Citing data provided by the institute, Liu said the inspections it conducted on July 11 and Sept. 18 both failed to discover that Chang Chi’s three products were adulterated.
Institute director-general Chen Shu-kong (陳樹功) described the companies’ actions as “malicious and intentional cheating,” but they might have slipped through a loophole because compliance with GMP and its inspection process was a voluntary act.
At a separate press conference, the DPP caucus reiterated that substandard Chang Chi food products should not be allowed back on the shelves after being relabeled. The Food and Drug Administration had said earlier that such reports were groundless.