The nation’s latest food scare, involving the massive use of a plasticizer in bottled beverages and dairy products, was exposed thanks to the perseverance of one food safety inspector, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director-General Lo Chi-fang (羅季方) said.
The 52-year-old FDA inspector, a mother of two surnamed Yang (楊), became suspicious in March during a routine check of beverages for banned chemicals, said Lo, who refused to divulge Yang’s full name to maintain her privacy.
Yang became concerned about contamination traces when she saw abnormal wave-shaped signals on her gas chromatography screen as she was inspecting some sports and soft drinks, including brand-name ones, Lo said, adding that Yang spent two weeks identifying the signals as being caused by Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, or DEHP, which to her knowledge had never been used before as a food additive.
“No medical or food-processing archives from Taiwan or abroad have indicated that DEHP has been added to food or drink products,” Lo quoted Yang as saying.
Over the ensuing several weeks, Yang discovered that the amount of the suspected carcinogen in each contaminated bottle or carton topped 600 parts per million, far exceeding the allowable daily intake of the chemical through other channels, including plastic film wrap, nail polish and plastic containers.
The Department of Health said on Monday that DEHP had been detected in 16 samples of sports and soft drinks, including Sunkist Lemon Juice, Taiwan Yes energy-boosting drink and a sports drink manufactured by Young Energy Source Co. The drinks have been pulled from stores.