Mon, Jul 13, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Fast food chains to be fined for arsenic

QUESTION OF SUBSTANCE A meeting will be held to determine which article of the law will be used to fine McDonald’s and Domino’s for their unpalatable habits

By Meggie Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Two branches of McDonald’s and one Domino’s Pizza restaurant in Taipei County will be fined between NT$60,000 and NT$300,000 for having excess arsenic levels in their frying oil, the Taipei County Government Legal Affairs Bureau said yesterday.

The county’s Legal Affairs Bureau director Chen Kun-jung (陳坤榮) said the fast food chains had 15 days from last Wednesday to appeal.

County Health Bureau chief Hsu Ming-neng (許銘能) said the bureau would issue the penalty documents today.

The announcement wrapped up a two-week long controversy over McDonald’s allegedly high arsenic concentration in its cooking oil, with the Consumer Protection Commission (CPC) locking horns with the Department of Health (DOH) over whether the CPC’s test results were valid.

On June 21, a CPC official tested used oil from a McDonald’s in Tucheng and a Domino’s branch in Yonghe and found them to contain arsenic.

However, after the CPC published the results on July 7, the county health bureau last Wednesday collected oil samples from five fast food restaurants in the county and had them analyzed by the DOH.

The oil was found to be arsenic-free.

“A meeting will take place today between related governmental agencies to determine whether Article 10 or Article 11 of the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) will be employed,” Chen said.

While Article 10 stipulates that businesses should improve the situation within a certain timeframe or face penalty, Article 11 — used in cases that cause more severe adverse effects to human health — stipulates an immediate penalty without appeal, Chen said.

Saying that businesses often think they can get away with violations because Article 10 is too commonly cited, Chen said he leaned toward citing Article 11 in the McDonald’s case.

Chen criticized the DOH for undermining the results of the CPC official working with the county by conducting its own test.

DOH Deputy Minister Sung Yen-jen (宋晏仁) said the department stood by the CPC’s test results.

“The DOH has always had the policy that if a restaurant violates the Act Governing Food Sanitation, it will be fined unless it provides sufficient evidence in appeal,” Sung said.

“As for the CPC official initiating a random check, the DOH is more than happy and thankful,” he said.

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