Sun, Jul 12, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Taipei County, DOH resolve tussle over fast-food oil tests

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

From today, the national allowable concentration of arsenic in both new and used oil will be 0.1ppm, the Department of Health (DOH) said last night.

The DOH made the announcement after a meeting with the Cabinet’s Consumer Protection Commission and Taipei County Government Legal Affairs Bureau and Health Bureau.

The meeting also concluded that tests carried out by the county government were legitimate and that the central government need not re-examine the results.

Earlier in the day, the DOH and the Taipei County Government were at odds over whether a McDonald’s outlet should be fined for testing positive for arsenic in its frying oil.

During a raid and test on June 21 by Taipei County Government officials, used oil from a McDonald’s in Tucheng and a Domino’s branch in Younghe tested positive for arsenic. On July 8, the DOH conducted another test on new and used oil from five fast food restaurants, but the test results revealed nothing out of the ordinary. The Taipei County Government test and DOH test were carried out by different labs.

Until earlier yesterday, there had been no regulations on arsenic levels in used oil although there were regulations saying that new oil must not contain any “heavy metal substances.”

At the time, the DOH said that McDonald’s should not be fined for now as it would be controversial to enforce the regulation given the lack of clear rules governing used oil.

“If McDonald’s oil tests positive for arsenic exceeding 0.1ppm, technically, they should be fined for this,” DOH Bureau of Food Safety Deputy Director Hsieh Ting-hung (謝定宏) said. “But, honestly, it would be controversial for us to do that at the moment.”

Hsieh said his fellow officials would discuss the matter with officials from the county’s Bureau of Health and decide how to handle McDonald’s case.

He also said that the county’s test was conducted by officials in charge of matters pertaining to consumer protection, not professional personnel from the Bureau of Health.

Taipei County Government Legal Affairs Bureau Director Chen Kun-jung (陳坤榮) yesterday rebutted Hsieh’s comments.

“Testing for acid value or arsenic is not consumer protection officials’ expertise. How can it be possible for them to do this job?” Chen said. “It was, of course, our officials from Bureau of Health who did the test, not consumer protection officials.”

Chen said he could not believe what he heard from the DOH and felt humiliated.

“Our consumer protection officials led the raid. But they could not complete the raid and the tests without health officials’ help with professional equipment and analysis,” Chen said. “That is the truth.”

McDonald’s business has dropped 10 percent since the oil issue emerged, McDonald’s spokesman Tsao Chang-chieh (曹昌傑) said, adding the company would continue to open its kitchens upon request as it has for the past four years.

From July 1, McDonald’s has made public the time and date of oil tests, the test results and when the oil was changed so consumers can easily access the information, Tsao said.

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