The Department of Health yesterday threatened to close certain McDonald's and Domino's fast food restaurants if they failed to improve the quality of their edible oil.
The threat came after two of the chains' restaurants — a McDonald's in Tucheng and a Domino's in Yonghe — tested positive on Monday for arsenic in their frying oil.
The McDonald's store showed levels of 0.923 parts per million (ppm) and 1.038ppm in tests conducted by Taipei County authorities, while the reading at Domino's was 1.105ppm. The legal maximum limit is 0.1ppm.
The arsenic results came as fast-food restaurants come under close scrutiny over the quality of oil used for frying following media reports that many stores used the same oil for more than a week, which can result in a buildup of carcinogens. The acid value of the oil is an indicator of whether its composition has changed because of repeated use.
“McDonald's will definitely be fined after failing the acid test for edible oil because this is not the first time this has happened. As for the positive arsenic test on Tuesday, we have yet to decide what to do,” said Hsu Ching-hsin (??, spokesman for the department's Food Safety Bureau.
“According to law, if they fail the acid value test again within a year, we will ask them to close their business,” Hsu said.
Hsu said that the department had launched an investigation to determine where the arsenic came from. If it appeared after the oil was used for frying food, McDonald's would be fined. If it was there from the beginning, the department would fine the oil manufacturer and request that McDonald's make improvements or the fast food restaurant could lose its operating permit.
“The fine will be between NT$30,000 and NT$300,000, as per the law,” Hsu said.
McDonald's and Domino's, however, said that they were the victims.
McDonald's spokesman Tsao Chang-chieh (曹昌傑) questioned the validity of the tests conducted by the Taipei County Government Bureau of Health. He said the same oil that tested positive for arsenic was sent to a lab at SGS Taiwan for tests and that the results were entirely different.
“SGS Taiwan approved our oil. We have faith in ourselves and will continue operations,” Tsao said.
Tsao said that all McDonald's branches used the same oil from the same manufacturer and that it was tested regularly.
Domino's also said it had sent the oil that tested positive to SGS Taiwan for a separate test and would make the results public when they are available.