The cooking oil scandal involving several of Ting Hsin International Group’s (頂新國際集團) subsidiaries could intensify as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) awaits results of tests on the firms’ oil products for dioxin, amid criticism that the agency dragged its feet on the testing.
The Changhua District Prosecutors’ Office collected samples of cooking oils at Ting Hsin Oil and Fat Industrial Co’s (頂新製油) Pingtung factory on Oct. 10 and Oct. 23.
The second set of samples was reportedly prompted by an anonymous tip-off from a Vietnam-based Taiwanese businessman that the animal feed oils Ting Hsin Oil had imported from oil manufacturer Dai Hanh Phuc Co (大幸福公司) in that country were contaminated with ingredients of “Agent Orange.”
Agent Orange was one of several herbicides and defoliants used in aerial spraying by the US military during the Vietnam War in Vietnam, eastern Laos and parts of Cambodia to eliminate forest cover that could hide North Vietnamese troops or crops that could feed them.
The use of such herbicides and defoliants has been blamed for hundreds of thousands of cases of deaths, illnesses and birth defects.
“The FDA received seven samples of Ting Hsin Oil’s refined and unrefined lard and beef tallow on Oct. 24, before receiving five more samples of the company’s coconut oil and beef tallow imported from Australia the next day,” FDA interim Director-General Chiang Yu-mei (姜郁美) told a news conference in Taipei.
Chiang said the FDA sent the two batches of samples to its laboratory on Monday and yesterday respectively to test for dioxin or dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls.
“The test results are expected within two weeks,” Chiang said.
The agency did not explain for the 11-day delay in sending the samples for dioxin screening, for which it has been criticized.
Chang Gung Memorial Hospital toxicologist Yen Tsung-hai (顏宗海) said Agent Orange contained dioxin, which has been dubbed the “poison of the century” and has been proven by the WHO to be a cancer-linked hazard to humans.
“Dioxin has a long half-life in animals and can easily enter the human food chain. Research has linked exposure to the substance to liver and skin diseases, impaired immune and endocrine systems, as well as an increased risk of miscarriage and fetal abnormalities,” Yen said.
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