The Food and Drug Administration on Friday accused a Kaohsiung man surnamed Lee (李) of selling tap water in recycled plastic bottles and disguising it as the product Drink Water (丹楓之水).
The agency said Lee had been doing this for more than 10 years, adding that he faces a potential fine of between NT$30,000 and NT$3 million (US$1,026 and US$102,631).
The Sanitation Standard for Food Utensils, Containers and Packages Act (食品器具容器包裝衛生標準) stipulates that utensils or food packaging made of plastic cannot be reused.
By reusing plastic bottles with branded logos and filling them with tap water, Lee breached Act 17 of the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation (食品安全衛生管理法), the agency said.
Lee is also accused of breaching Article 8, Subparagraph 1 and Article 41 of the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation and has been ordered by the Kaohsiung City Government to sanitize his home and stop selling water in recycled bottles, agency Southern Region Management Center Director Lu Chun-ju (呂昀儒) said.
While inspecting Lee’s residence, the center found several empty bottles, a box full of bottle caps and empty cardboard boxes branded with the Drink Water logo, Lu said.
The Kaohsiung Department of Health took samples from four separate bottles to see if the contents met health and sanitation standards, and the rest was impounded by the Second Special Police Corps, Lu said.
Police are still investigating which retail stores might have bought water from Lee, the agency said.
Actual Drink Water caps should be half-translucent, while Lee’s bottles had milky-white caps, the administration said.
Yan Tsung-hai (顏宗海) a clinical toxicology doctor at Linkou Chang Gung Medical Hospital, said unsterilized tap water can contain microorganisms and ingestion could cause acute gastroenteritis, resulting in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pains.
Regulations prohibit repeated use of plastic bottles, utensils and packaging made from polyethylene terephthalate, Yan said, adding that it is identified as a No. 1 recyclable under the international resin identification coding system.
Plastic bottles are considered one-time use items and are designed to be difficult to clean and disinfect, Yan said, adding that if the bottles had been exposed to heat at any time, users might have ingested plasticizers — chemical additives used to make plastic more pliable.
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