Amid the growing controversy over the use of illegal additives in cooking oil, a nutritional biotechnology expert yesterday said that residual gossypol in cottonseed oil can damage the human reproductive system.
Authorities last week raided the offices and factory of Chang Chi Foodstuff Factory Co, a producer of olive, peanut, chili and other oil products. Initial tests have shown that the firm’s cooking oil products contain the illegal additive copper complex chlorophyllin and are a mixture of different oil products, including cheaper ones such as cottonseed oil.
During a question-and-answer session at the legislature yesterday, Ministry of Health and Welfare officials said that 40 percent of the cottonseed oil imports from last year through this year were bought by Chang Chi, and the other 60 percent was purchased by Flavor Full Foods Inc, a company that helps Chang Chi process its goods.
Flavor Full Foods said that although it bought the lion’s share of the cottonseed oil imports, they underwent a purifying process before being added to other oil products. It said that after being refined, cottonseed oil no longer contain gossypol.
Han Chien-kuo (韓建國), an associate professor at Asia University’s Department of Health and Nutrition Biotechnology, rebutted the company’s claim.
Han said that even after going through a purification process, there was no guarantee that it would yield 100 percent gossypol-free cottonseed oil. He added that it was better to avoid treating cottonseed oil as edible oil as it could lead to infertility.
According to Changhua County Government’s Public Health Bureau, cottonseed oil, at NT$25 per kilogram, is far cheaper than any other oil product.
A case study conducted by a foreign institution showed that a man in Guangzhou, China, suffered from azoospermia and sexual dysfunction after using cottonseed oil for a long period, the bureau said.
Meanwhile, the Changhua District Prosecutors’ Office said it has narrowed its investigation into the Chang Chi case to three key suspects — Chang Chi chairman Kao Cheng-li (高振利); the head of the firm’s laboratory surnamed Wen (溫); and an employee surnamed Chou (周) who kept a record of the company’s edible oil recipes. The office said the three were the only ones who had knowledge of the company’s oil recipe.
Prosecutors said that the “recipe” was not just one page, but a manual with more than 200 pages and encoded by Kao.
Kao had made careful notes of the ratios of the different recipes and has an A3-size index of all the recipes, they said.
They had summoned the three in for questioning, but Kao was reticent during the session, only answering general questions. Wen and Chou were much more cooperative, they said.
They added that they were further investigating the company to see if there might be other problems.