A top executive of Ting Hsin Oil and Fat Industrial Co (頂新製油實業) and two from Cheng I Food Co (正義股份) were detained yesterday in connection with the ongoing cooking oil scandals.
Ting Hsin Oil & Fat acting chairman and former general manager Chen Mao-chia (陳茂嘉) was detained after more than 10 hours of questioning by prosecutors in Changhua County overnight, following a search of the company headquarters.
In Greater Kaohsiung, Cheng I president Ho Yu-jen (何育仁) and deputy chief procurement officer Hu Chin-min (胡金忞) were also detained.
Photo: Yen Hung-chun, Taipei Times
The two companies, both units of food conglomerate Ting Hsin International Group (頂新集團), are accused of using lard meant for animal feed in their cooking oil products.
The incident — the third oil-related scandal to hit the conglomerate within a year — has sparked widespread outrage among consumers in Taiwan, leading to a campaign to boycott the group’s products and brands.
Former Cheng I and Ting Hsin Oil & Fat chairman Wei Ying-chun (魏應充) held a news conference on Saturday to apologize to the public.
He also announced that the two subsidiaries would suspend their operations until their procedures were improved.
He is now under investigation by the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office.
The Taiwan High Prosecutors’ Office said a meeting is to be held today among prosecutors from 13 local prosecutors’ offices who currently have food-related cases on hand.
The meeting aims to integrate information and communications among the local prosecutors in a bid to enhance the efficiency of the investigations.
The Taiwan High Prosecutors’ Office said a total of 48 food-related cases have been undertaken by prosecutors in Keelung, Taipei, New Taipei City, Taoyuan, Greater Taichung, Chuanghua County, Yunlin County, Chiayi, Greater Tainan, Greater Kaohsiung, Pingtung County, Yilan County and Penghu.
Althought the 48 cases may not all be of major food security concerns, particiants at the meeting today are to nonetheless discuss the cases and decide whether any warrant an expansion in terms of its probes, the office said.
Meanwhile, according to the Pingtung District Prosecutors’ Office, Ting Hsin Oil & Fat Industrial had been indicted well before the latest revelations surfaced.
The indictment against Ting Hsin Oil & Fat Industrial and three of its executives was handed down on Aug. 21 and covered charges of fraud, faking product labels and violating food safety regulations, charges dating back to an oil scandal that emerged late last year, the office said.
Prosecutors said Ting Hsin Oil & Fat purchased low-cost oils from Chang Chi Foodstuff Factory Co (大統長基) that contained artificial coloring and cottonseed oil, but were marketed as more expensive products.
It then processed those oils and also sold them as high-priced pure olive oil or grapeseed oil, making illicit gains, prosecutors said.
Chang Chi Foodstuff’s scheme to pawn cheaper oils off as more expensive ones was not publicly exposed until October last year, when the Ting Hsin Group’s flagship Wei Chuan Foods Corp (味全食品工業) brand was also found to have sold the adulterated oil products for several years.
After an investigation, prosecutors determined that Ting Hsin Oil & Fat was selling its adulterated oils to Wei Chuan on a contract basis.
In the indictment, prosecutors alleged that the three of its executives knew the oils the company bought from Chang Chi were adulterated, yet continued to purchase and ship them to the Pingtung factory to be processed and packaged for Wei Chuan.
Prosecutors recommended that the company be fined NT$51.08 million (US$1.68 million) and have also asked the court to give them the maximum possible sentences because they “showed no remorse for the offenses.”
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