Consumers in US react to Taiwan’s tainted foodstuffs

WEARIED US SHOPPERS::Opinions of Taiwanese brands began changing when plasticizer turned up in everything from fruit jelly to sports beverages

By Chris Fuchs  /  Contributing reporter in NEW YORK

Wed, Nov 20, 2013 - Page 1

For decades, three simple words — Made in Taiwan — stamped on canned and packaged food items sold in Chinese supermarkets in the US conveyed a guarantee of quality and excellence, but in the wake of Taiwan’s widening food scandal, Chinese and Taiwanese-Americans living in New York, home to the largest overseas Chinese population in the US, say they are thinking twice about what they put in their shopping baskets.

As of yesterday, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had not yet issued any recalls for any products linked to Taiwan’s food safety scare, including those manufactured by Wei Chuan Food Corp (味全), Chang Chi Foodstuff Factory Co (大統長基), Formosa Oilseed Processing Co (福懋) and Flavor Full Foods (富味鄉), according to the agency’s Web site.

When asked about how the FDA issues recalls for potentially harmful FDA-regulated products, an agency spokeswoman, Juli Ann Putnam, referred to the FDA’s Web site, which said that “recalls are almost always voluntary” and that “only in rare cases will the FDA request a recall.”

Many shoppers interviewed last weekend in New York said they began changing their opinion about made-in-Taiwan brands in 2011, when the plasticizer di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate was found in emulsifying additives used in everything from sports beverages to fruit jelly.

Regarded as a cheap substitute for palm oil, plasticizers have been linked to developmental problems in children and are illegal in foodstuffs.

Besides keeping straight the growing number of companies being added to the made-in-Taiwan blacklist, wearied Chinese and Taiwanese-American shoppers pointed out that they also face another challenge that emerged before the integrity of Taiwanese food items had been called into question — making sure that the brands they purchase are actually the real thing.

For full report, see Tainted by scandal in features section.