The Banciao District Court yesterday sentenced Chen Che-hsiung (陳哲雄), the owner of Pin Han Perfumery Co in New Taipei City (新北市), to 13 years in prison for fraud after the company used the chemical diisononyl phthalate, or DINP, in clouding agents.
Chen’s wife, Wang Fen (王粉), was sentenced to 10 years in prison, while their two sons — Chen Wei-cheng (陳威丞) and Chen Wei-chuan (陳威銓) — were found not guilty.
The sentences can be appealed.
The Banciao District Prosecutors’ Office indicted Chen Che-hsiung, Wang and their two sons in June on charges of fraud and multiple violations of the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法).
That indictment recommended a 25-year jail term plus a fine of NT$10 million (US$335,000) for owner Chen Che-hsiung; a 20-year prison term and a fine of NT$8 million for Wang; and 15-year and 10-year sentences and fines of NT$5 million and NT$3 million for Chen Wei-cheng and Chen Wei-chuan respectively.
Prosecutors said Chen Che-hsiung knew that DINP was harmful and deliberately violated the law by adding it to food products.
The court found Chen Wei-cheng not guilty, saying that although he was called to assist in the process, he was not aware that the clouding agents were mixed with a toxic chemical.
Chen Wei-chuan was also found not guilty because although he put his name to the process, he did not actually take part in it.
The nation was hit by a food scare in late May when local food ingredient suppliers Yu Shen Chemical Co and Pin Han Perfumery Co were found to be adding plasticizers to clouding agents, a food additive commonly used in sports drinks, fruit jelly, jam, yogurt mix powder and dietary supplements.
The case against Yu Shen Chemical Co is still ongoing.
The food scare forced the widespread recall of products and consumer confidence was heavily affected. It also prompted the legislature in June to pass an amendment to the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) that imposes stiffer penalties for food safety violations.
To deter the use of banned food ingredients and additives, the maximum fine for violations has been raised to NT$6 million from NT$300,000.
The amendment stipulates that food or food additives that are harmful to human health, are toxic or contain substances that are harmful to human health, or are contaminated by pathogens, shall not be manufactured, processed, prepared, packaged, transported, stored, sold, imported, exported, presented as a gift or publicly displayed.
Violators could be forced to close their business or have their license revoked in severe cases.