Wed, Jun 15, 2011 - Page 2 News List

DOH opens probe after HK food scare

SESAME OIL:Taiwan-made Weilih noodle packs have been pulled off Hong Kong shelves, but not in Taiwan because they don’t contain the problematic flavoring

By Shelley Huang  /  Staff Reporter

Following reports that food safety authorities in Hong Kong found plasticizer chemicals in Taiwan-made Weilih instant noodles, the Department of Health (DOH) yesterday said it had opened an investigation into the matter.

Since news broke that certain foods and beverages manufactured in Taiwan had tested positive for plasticizer chemicals such as di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, or DEHP, and diisononyl phthalate, or DINP, tonnes of contaminated food products have been taken off shelves and destroyed.

Plasticizers such as DEHP and DINP are potentially harmful to human health and were discovered late last month to have been added to clouding agents used in many food products. Lab tests have confirmed that DEHP and DINP have been used as a substitute for more expensive ingredients such as palm oil in food additives used in a wide variety of food products, from sports drinks to fruit jams.

On Monday, authorities in Hong Kong announced that the sesame oil packets found in Weilih’s hand-made instant noodles (維力手打麵) contained DEHP, while Chuang’s Square Cookies (莊家方塊酥) contained DEHP and DINP.

The news quickly came into the spotlight since both products, manufactured in Taiwan, are well-known, signature foods.

Food and Drug Administration Director-General Kang Jaw-jou (康照洲) yesterday said that health officials were in the process of investigating the possible contamination.

Health authorities have also ordered that Chuang’s Square Cookies’ brown sugar flavor, which are suspected to be contaminated, be taken off the shelves. Weilih noodles, on the other hand, have not been taken off shelves because the noodles being sold in Taiwan do not contain the sesame oil packet suspected of being the source of the contamination.

Meanwhile, the Consumers’ Foundation urged the government to conduct a comprehensive probe into all instant noodles that come with oil packets.

The foundation said that the small plastic bag that contains the oil could cause plasticizer chemicals to leach into foods.

If the DOH does not have the resources and manpower to send samples of all instant noodle oil packets for laboratory testing, then authorities should require that manufacturers send samples of their products for testing, then publicize the results to ensure food safety, the foundation said.

The more promptly these tests are done, the more quickly authorities would be able to track down the source of the contamination and possibly discover if more companies are involved in adding illegal ingredients to foodstuffs, the foundation said.

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