Thu, Jun 22, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Top court upholds verdict in ‘tainted tofu pudding’ case

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

The Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s conviction of Chou Te-yung (周德永) for providing industrial-grade gypsum powder for use in tofu products, handing down a six-month prison sentence and a fine of NT$3 million (US$98,454).

It is the final ruling on the case and cannot be appealed, but 76-year-old Chou is not expected to spend time in jail, as the court said the prison term was commutable to a fine of NT$180,000.

The court convicted Chou, owner of New Taipei City-based Yung Chang Gypsum Chemical Co (永昌石膏化工), of contravening the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation (食品安全衛生管理法).

Authorities in 2014 launched an investigation after New Taipei City food safety inspectors found industrial-grade gypsum in tofu pudding and other tofu products made by Lu Chia Foods Co (盧佳食品); a case that became known as the “tainted tofu pudding scandal.”

The investigation found Chou had imported industrial-grade gypsum powder from China, which also carried risks of containing adulterants and high levels of toxic chemical substances.

Food-grade gypsum powder is used in the coagulation process to turn soybean milk into tofu, while industrial-grade gypsum is used to make plaster and drywall materials used in construction and interior design.

Only certified food-grade gypsum powder is permitted in tofu production, but manufacturers have been known to falsify inspection documents to save money, as industrial-grade gypsum powder is much cheaper.

Lu Chia Foods makes traditional desserts such as tofu pudding and grass jelly, which are usually mixed with syrup, beans, cereals, nuts or fruits.

In the first ruling by a district court, Chou was found not guilty, as the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Department of Food Safety was considering amendments to permit some forms of anhydrous calcium sulfate derived from gypsum to be used in foodstuffs.

However, Chou was found guilty in the second ruling by the Taiwan High Court, which said that he had violated the food safety act and that documents were falsified to deceive Lu Chia Foods and other downstream food processors.

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