Health authorities have launched inspections of starch suppliers that offer ingredients used in popular drinks and hot pot dishes, following the discovery of a banned industrial raw material in the products.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director-General Kang Jaw-jou (康照洲) said the agency had instructed local health authorities on Tuesday to check on 99 starch suppliers around the country within a week.
On Monday, the FDA said five products sold across the nation were found to contain maleic acid, a byproduct that indicates the use of industrial starch.
The agency said it received a tipoff about the use of industrial starch, which can increase the chewiness of food, and conducted tests on 74 food products.
The results were released on Monday.
Among the offending items are Sunright Foods Corp’s tapioca balls, which are used in bubble milk tea, taro and yam balls from a food company in Taoyuan County, and fish paste products commonly used as a hot pot ingredient from Tenyu Foods Co and a company called Chant Sen in Greater Kaohsiung.
Sunright was ordered to recall 3,000kg of products, which were to be destroyed at a later day.
The company had been selling tapioca balls to supermarket chains Pxmart, Wellcome and Matsusei, as well as about 1,200 other retailers.
Consumers who have bought the product can seek refunds from the point of purchase, Sunright manager Tseng Wen-hui (曾文輝) said.
The company has also asked its online retailers to stop selling the product, Tseng said.
Sunright said it had also notified importers in the Netherlands, Malaysia and Switzerland that have bought the product over the past six months to destroy their stocks.
Sunright added that it has asked the nation’s four major supermarket chains — Wellcome, Matsusei, Pxmart and the Ministry of National Defense’s General Welfare Service — to pull its tapioca ball products off the shelves.
The ingredients of the products in question have been traced to various suppliers in New Taipei City (新北市), Chiayi County and Greater Kaohsiung.
Consumers should not panic as the intake of maleic acid poses no threat to health at the levels found in the products, the FDA said.
The owner of a supplier in New Taipei City surnamed Liu (劉) has been fined NT$60,000 and referred to New Taipei City prosecutors for distributing ingredients of an unknown source.
A total of 2,590kg of starch products from the supplier have been confiscated.
Another supplier in New Taipei, Yi Ho Starch Co, which said it imported the industrial starch from Vietnam, saw 10,000kg of its products confiscated.