The government yesterday said that it would continue to trace food and drink products that might have been contaminated by the toxic chemical Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, or DEHP.
Contaminated products will be recalled, said Tsai Shu-chen (蔡淑貞), chief of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) food division.
The Department of Health announced on Monday that DEHP, a plasticizer, had been found in an emulsifier used in fruit jellies, yogurt powder mixes, juices, soft drinks and other beverages.
The tainted emulsifier was either produced by Yu Shen Chemical Co or by the company’s suppliers.
The chemical was added to the emulsifier to replace palm oil in an effort to reduce production costs.
More than 40 food and drink manufacturers that unknowingly used the tainted emulsifier have had their products pulled from stores.
Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) yesterday vowed to get to the root of the problem and hold manufacturers accountable.
“The health of people consuming soft drinks containing DEHP is a grave matter and cannot be resolved with just an apology. What we should do is to trace the source [of the contamination],” Wu said when asked to comment.
The manufacturers of the tainted beverages are responsible for notifying importers overseas that their products should be withdrawn from sale.
Meanwhile, prosecutors summoned officials from the two food-additive makers that used materials supplied by Yu Sheng Chemical in an effort to determine if they knew their products had been adulterated with DEHP.
Food and Drug Administration Director-General Kang Jaw-jou (康照洲) said the Criminal Code needed to be amended to increase the penalty for such violations, which are now punishable by a maximum fine of NT$300,000.
Kang said it would be difficult to indict Yu Shen Chemical unless there is evidence proving that the contaminated products have damaged the health of consumers.
At a separate setting, the Consumers’ Foundation said the government should set up a protection fund for consumers to prevent a panic when a tainted food scandal is uncovered.
Despite the recall, members of the public were still afraid they might consume unsafe products, necessitating the creation of a protection fund.
Foundation chairperson Joann Su (蘇錦霞) said money from the fund would help reduce public fears and doubts by clearing the market of all “questionable” products in stores, as well as items still in production and raw materials in manufacturers’ hands.
“This can prevent uninformed consumers from getting their hands on tainted products and reassure the public, thus benefiting innocent manufacturers,” Su said, adding that many consumers have resisted buying bottled beverages since Monday’s announcement.
However, the foundation did not specify how it would define which “questionable” products should be removed from stores.
Su urged manufacturers who use Yu Sheng Chemical’s emulsifier or other ingredients voluntarily pull their products immediately to reduce public apprehension.
“If the tainted food controversy is not well-handled, it will not only harm consumers’ health, but cause damage to the economy,” Su said.
She said it was not the first time the group had urged the creation of a protection fund, noting it had done so in 2008 during China’s melamine-contaminated milk scandal.
“Sadly, we still haven’t seen any measures from the government,” Su said.