Prosecutors indict Chang Chi chairman

DISTASTEFUL::Kao Cheng-li is accused of using moldy mushrooms and decades-old fish to produce satay sauce using a process that could make the product carcinogenic

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Sat, Oct 26, 2013 - Page 1

The Changhua District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday indicted Chang Chi Foodstuff Factory Co (大統長基) chairman Kao Cheng-li (高振利) on charges of fraud and violation of the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) for allegedly adulterating the company’s edible oil products.

For up to seven years, Kao allegedly blended edible oil products with chlorophyllin and cheap cottonseed oil, which is toxic if unrefined, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors accuse Kao of pocketing approximately NT$1.8 billion (US$61.2 million) as a result.

The Ministry of Justice inventoried and froze Kao’s financial assets after allegations triggered a nationwide food scare that could implicate other oil manufacturers.

Meanwhile, the Changhua County Public Health Bureau yesterday launched an investigation into fresh allegations that Chang Chi’s satay sauce products were made from moldy shiitake mushroom stems and fish frozen for two decades.

The allegations were made by Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wei Ming-ku (魏明谷) at a press conference yesterday.

Citing an anonymous whistleblower, Wei said common ingredients in Taiwanese-style satay sauce include peanuts, shiitake mushrooms and fish, but Kao, in an attempt to cut production costs, allegedly imported broad beans from Vietnam and Thailand as a cheaper substitute for peanuts, before mixing them with moldy shiitake mushroom stipes and long-frozen imported fish.

“To make the sauce, broad beans and mushroom stipes have to first be deep-fried at a high temperature, a process that could cause the fungus on the mushrooms to produce aflatoxin, a mold known to increase people’s risk of developing liver cancer, suffer tissue bleeding or loss of appetite,” Wei said.

Wei urged that the factory where the sauce is made be shut down.

In response, bureau director Yeh Yen-po (葉彥伯) said the bureau had sent health inspectors to examine the Changhua-based company’s factory in Lugang Township (鹿港) yesterday, where its production lines for satay sauce are situated.

“Satay sauce is made from a variety of ingredients and our health inspectors are trying to understand how the company manufactures the product,” Yeh said.

According to the nutritional information label on Chang Chi’s satay sauce, it contains soybean oil, garlic, dried onions, peanuts, chili powder, salt and fish, Yeh said, adding that the bureau would ascertain whether the information was correct.

In related developments, the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ Central Region Office yesterday announced that it had stripped Chang Chi’s Lugang factory of its tourism factory status.

Chang Chi has two factories in the Changhua Coastal Industrial Park (彰濱工業區), one in Lugang, which mostly manufactures soy sauce, and the other in Siansi Township (線西), which produces the company’s edible oil.

The Siansi factory was shut down by the county’s health bureau last Saturday in accordance with Articles 44, 45 and 47 of the Act Governing Food Sanitation, which the company is accused of violating, the office said in a press release.

“Although no irregularities have been discovered at the company’s Lugang factory, given the severity of misconduct at its Siansi factory, the office rescinded the Lugang plant’s tourism factory status on Tuesday in a bid to protect the image of other tourism factories and to ensure food safety,” the office said.

The office added that Chang Chi transformed its Lugang factory into a tourism plant in 2011 without ministry approval and that it was only officially granted tourism factory status this April.