Five dried day lily products that were found to contain high levels of bleach have been removed from store shelves in New Taipei City (新北市), health officials said after a series of random checks on food items that are traditionally popular during the Lunar New Year holiday.
The city’s Public Health Department said that earlier this month it tested 185 food items at convenience stores, wholesale outlets and traditional markets and found that five of them contained excessive levels of sulfur dioxide.
All five were dried day lily products and have been removed from store shelves, department section chief Wang Shu-fen (王淑芬) said.
The items contained up to 17.27g of sulfur dioxide per kilogram of dried day lilies, way above the legal limit of 4g, she added.
Sulfur dioxide is commonly used to decolorize and enhance the appearance of day lilies.
Suppliers of the tainted dried day lilies will be fined between NT$30,000 (US$1,000) and NT$150,000 in accordance with the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法), Wang said.
Consumers should soak dried day lilies in warm water and then boil them for three minutes to get rid of excess sulfur dioxide, she said.
Wang also urged consumers to avoid day lilies that are too bright in color as well as salted melon seeds and pistachios that appear to be too white.
Meanwhile, a report earlier this week said that 51.7 percent of day lilies checked in Taipei between July and last month contained high levels of bleach and that some of those products were from Hualien.
The Hualien County Health Bureau said on Wednesday that 72 percent of the county’s dried day lilies passed sulfur dioxide tests in inspections conducted throughout last year.
Bureau deputy head Lin Yun-chin (林雲欽) said most of the products that failed the checks were from the same suppliers in southern Hualien and the bureau had recalled them.
Taiwan has the technology to produce dried day lilies without sulfur dioxide, Lin said, adding that agricultural agencies could provide assistance.
However, use of that technology tends to reduce the shelf life of the products, Lin said.