Taipei City’s Department of Health yesterday began issuing government-issued safety labels to vendors in food courts who passed inspections to make it easier for consumers to identify vendors whose food and beverages are free of maleic anhydride-modified industrial starch.
The heart-shaped labels are posted on top of the certifications as a double confirmation of the safety of food in the stores.
Department commissioner Lin Chi-hung (林奇宏) said city inspectors would affix the labels on the certifications during the inspections, and the move aimed to save consumers the trouble of reading the complicated certification, which should read “N.D.” (not detected) on the presence of maleic industrial starch in the food item.
As the Department of Health (DOH) launched a nationwide inspection this week on eight major food items that might contain the industrial starch, including oden, tapioca pearls, taro balls, flat noodles and Taiwanese meatballs, the city government has inspected 1,003 vendors around town, with 244 of 465 vendors that sell the eight food items being provided safety certification, he said.
Lin said food manufacturers are obligated to provide such certification to vendors, and the department will help vendors obtain the certification while widening such inspections on additional food items that contain starch.
“Most vendors are also victims in the industrial starch incident, and the department will help them seek compensation from illegal manufacturers,” he said.
Staring on Saturday, any vendor who sells a food product containing the banned starch could face a fine of between NT$30,000 (US$1,000) and NT$150,000 for violating the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法).
Taipei Department of Health chief secretary Chiang Yu-mei (姜郁美) said the labels would be valid until June 30, after which a new round of inspections would be conducted and new labels issued.
Meanwhile, in related developments, a noodle manufacturer from Greater Tainan’s Guanmiao District (關廟) yesterday claimed his product did not contain the modified starch and said he did not know why the product was ordered to be removed from shelves in Singapore.
Wu Chin-chih (吳金智) told a press conference that modified starch has never been used in the firm’s Shan-chih Guanmiao Noodles, which the DOH said had failed a test by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) of Singapore and has been banned in the city-state.
The owner said no starch was used in the manufacturing process and the preliminary test report on his products showed no trace of such an ingredient, which conflicted with the AVA test results.
Democratic Progressive Party Deputy Secretary-General Lee Chun-yi (李俊毅) and DPP Legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃), who accompanied Wu at the news conference held at DPP headquarters, said the government had responded to the incident too slowly and had damaged food manufacturers, as well as vendors.
There are more than 30 noodle manufacturers in Guanmiao with a total annual output of more than NT$20 billion.
Food and Drug Administration official Liu Fang-ming (劉芳銘) said the agency had tested four products and two ingredients after the AVA announcement, adding that the preliminary report did not find any trace of maleic anhydride.
The final test report would be released as soon as today, Liu added.