The Taipei City Government yesterday announced it would expand the scope of its inspections on maleic anhydride-modified industrial starch in food products and will help food vendors obtain safety certificates.
Officials from the city’s Department of Health visited more than 1,000 vendors at major night markets, food courts and tea shops to promote food safety measures, and advised the businesses to provide food safety certifications, as the central government’s ban on food items containing the industrial starch takes effect on Saturday.
The department will join the city’s Market Administration Office and Department of Economic Development in communicating with vendors about government measures in banning the industrial starch from food.
Some Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) city councilors raised questions yesterday about the use of the starch in food products such as pork balls and cookies.
“Any food items with starch as an ingredient could be contaminated. What else can we eat? The Taipei City Government must take the initiative and strengthen inspections on all such food items,” Taipei City Councilor Lin Yi-hua (林奕華) said during a question-and-answer session in the council.
Taipei City Councilor Tai Hsi-chin (戴錫欽) said a local borough warden found that pork balls also contained starch, and took the intiative to check whether the starch was maleic anhydride-modified industrial starch.
“The toxic starch has caused fears about industrial starch in food items, and the city government should do more to ensure food safety for the public,” he said.
Health Department Director Lin Chi-hung (林奇宏) said the central government is focusing its inspection on eight major food items that could contain more of the industrial starch, including oden, tapioca pearls, taro balls, flat noodles and Taiwanese meatballs. The city will expand its inspection to cover other food items, he said.
Asked if his administration would allow the public to send suspicious food items in for testing, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) said the city will make more of an effort to trace the manufacturers that provided the industrial starch to vendors and that focusing on the manufacturers would be a better preventative measure.
As of Saturday, any vendor who sells a food product containing the industrial starch could face a fine of between NT$30,000 and NT$150,000 for violating the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法).