New Taipei City’s Department of Health searched a pig scalp factory early yesterday morning and seized 800kg of raw and processed products after being tipped off that asphalt was used to remove hair from the scalps.
The factory had sold 219 tonnes of illegally processed pig scalp over the past year, the department said, adding that the primary point of distribution appears to have been Huan Nan Traditional Market (環南市場) in Taipei, but the goods were also sold elsewhere.
The department suspects that the factory had been using asphalt as a hair removal agent since February last year, deputy department commissioner Hsu Chao-cheng (許朝程) said.
The factory was commissioned by vendors in New Taipei City’s Sanchong District (三重) and meat stalls at the market to process raw materials into parts commonly used by street stalls, Hsu said.
The factory owner has admitted to the allegations and the Shilin District Prosecutors’ Office is to investigate further, Hsu said, adding that he is looking at an indictment for breaching Article 15 of the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation (食品安全衛生管理法), which is punishable by a maximum of seven years in prison and a fine of NT$80 million (US$2.7 million).
The factory has also been ordered to halt operations over misconduct under Article 8 of the act — having unsanitary surroundings — and would be fined between NT$60,000 and NT$200 million if it fails to improve its standards, Hsu said.
“We are still looking into how many vendors have been affected by the sales,” Hsu said.
The hair removal agent stipulated in the Council of Agriculture’s standard operating procedures, rosin cerate, costs NT$3,000 per 25kg bag, but asphalt costs only NT$900 per barrel, Hsu said.
“We suspect that the factory used substances which could harm the human body to lower production costs,” Hsu said.
Asphalt contains cadmium, copper, nickel, vanadium and lead, as well as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are known carcinogens, said National Taiwan University College of Medicine toxicologist Chiang Chih-kang (姜至剛) of the Taiwan Food Safety Promotion Association.
Ingestion of low doses of cadmium could damage the kidneys, lungs and bones, Chiang said, adding that protracted ingestion of low doses of lead could slow cognitive functions and intellectual development in children.
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