Top Pot Bakery (胖達人), a well-known bakery chain that advertises that it uses natural ingredients, yesterday apologized for using flavoring essences in its baked goods and promised to pay refunds to customers after a Taipei City Government inspection of the ingredients used by the firm.
Swamped by reporters in front of one of the chain’s stores in Taipei, general manager Benson Hsu (徐志鴻) bowed to apologize for using artificial ingredients and said the company has pulled 21 baked products off its shelves.
He said stores would refund customers with receipts.
“We apologize for misleading customers [with the advertisements]. However, the ingredients we used are edible flavoring essences and are not a danger to health,” he said.
While acknowledging that the firm used artificial ingredients in its products, Hsu blamed a supplier for claiming that the ingredients were natural and said the company would consider filing a lawsuit against the supplier.
The bakery became popular after it opened its first store last year, appealing to those wishing to eat only natural ingredients. Promotions by celebrities such as Dee Hsu (徐熙娣, better known as Little S), drew crowds to the stores.
The controversy over the ingredients used at the bakery chain began earlier this week when a Hong Kong blogger posted an article accusing the chain of lying to customers because it had used artificial ingredients in its products.
Taipei’s Department of Health inspected the bakery’s Zhongxiao Store on Thursday night and discovered nine edible flavoring essences, including blueberry and chocolate, in the factory on the second floor.
Taipei Food and Drug Office official Chiu Hsiu-yi (邱秀儀) said using edible artificial ingredients in the bakery did not violate regulations, but that the bakery had violated articles 28 and 45 of the Food Sanitation Act (食品衛生管理法) for running deceptive and misleading advertisements, which could lead to a fine of up to NT$200,000 (US$6,685).
Taipei’s Department of Health later yesterday fined the bakery NT$180,000 for violating the Food Sanitation Act.
Taipei Department of Legal Affairs Commissioner Tsai Li-wen (蔡立文) said the bakery had also violated the Fair Trade Act (公平交易法) and the Consumer Protection Act (消費者保護法) by failing to ensure that the products were produced as advertised. The bakery could face a fine of up to NT$25 million if it fails to correct the situation, Tsai said.
Taipei City Ombudsman Pan Hung-cheng (潘宏政) said the city government has asked the bakery to pay full refunds to customers with receipts.
Hsu said the company would follow the city government’s instructions and announce its refund policy after negotiations with the city government to be held next week.