Worries over staple prices
The Consumer’s Foundation today plans to ask the Fair Trade Commission to publicly announce increases in the price of staples, foundation chairwoman Joann Su (蘇錦霞) said yesterday. The foundation will make the request during a call on the commission to inquire about its efforts to monitor prices. Su said the group was most concerned about mid and upstream increases in the price of such staples as wheat, flour and sugar. Given that international staple prices are rising, many people nationwide are concerned that local prices will follow suit. The UN said earlier this month that the price of agricultural goods last month climbed to a record high.
More science papers written
A total of 24,305 scientific research papers from Taiwan were listed in the Science Citation Index in 2009, ranking 16th in the world and representing an improvement of 7.8 percent on the previous year, Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics officials said at the weekend. A total of 18,869 papers were also published cited by major engineering publications in 2009, up 7.9 percent year-on-year and ranking ninth on the global engineering index, officials said citing tallies from the National Science Council. Meanwhile, a total of 6,642 patent applications filed by Taiwanese institutions or individuals in the US were approved in 2009, making Taiwan the fifth-largest recipient of US patents for that year, according to the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ Intellectual Property Office. Officials said Taiwan ranked behind only the US, Japan, Germany and South Korea in patent right claims in the US in 2009, representing an increase of 4.8 percent over the previous year.
Tainted ‘tang yuan’ found
Consumers are encouraged to buy pre-packaged tang yuan (glutinous rice balls) instead of loose ones, because of food safety issues, the Taipei City Government said yesterday ahead of the Lantern Festival, when people traditionally eat the rice balls in a sweet broth. The city government offered the advice after a preservative called dehydroacetic acid was detected in non-packaged glutinous rice balls sold by two vendors in Neihu District (內湖) during a random inspection, the city’s Department of Health said. “The tainted products were pulled off the market and destroyed,” Food and Drug Division acting-chief Chiang Yu-mei (姜郁美) said. The makers of the rice balls would be fined between NT$30,000 and NT$150,000, in accordance with the Food Hygiene Management Act (食品衛生管理法), she added. All 50 of the packaged rice ball products checked for artificial coloring, preservatives and proper labeling met national food safety standards, she said. Health regulations permit the use of dehydroacetic acid, a tasteless preservative, in cheese and artificial butter at a level below 0.5 grams per kilogram, “but not in tang yuan,” she said. Tang yuan come in various sizes, with or without a filling and can be sweet or savory. The round shape symbolizes togetherness and the dish is thus considered appropriate for family celebrations during Lantern Festival. Although chemical substances like dehyroacetic acid make tang yuan tastier and keep them fresh for a longer period of time, a chronic overdose could impair the functions of the liver and kidneys, Chiang said. “We were shocked to find the preservative in our random inspection, because we have been promoting a ban on dehyroacetic acid for years,” she said.