Company admits toxic solvent used in food containers

FOOD FIASCO::The toxic solvent can cause liver or kidney failure and was being used by the firm to clean containers widely used for food and drinks

Staff writer, with CNA

Thu, Aug 15, 2013 - Page 3

A major printing company in Greater Taichung yesterday admitted to using a toxic industrial solvent to remove smudges on food and drink containers, as the authorities moved to close down its operations and order an immediate recall of its products.

Huang Guan Special Printers makes hundreds of millions of paper containers and counts several well-established firms among its customers, including China Airlines and the Ding Tai Fung restaurant chain.

Both China Airlines and Ding Tai Fung immediately stopped using the containers, the companies said shortly after learning about the contamination.

Huang Guan general manager Chu Ming-yao (朱明耀) bowed and apologized at a press conference after the Chinese-language Apple Daily yesterday reported that the company’s workers use toluene to wipe stains off paper boxes and cups widely used for take-out food and drinks.

The containers get smudged because the printing machines the firm uses are old and defective, the newspaper quoted a former Huang Guan employee as saying.

If inhaled or ingested, toluene, a water-insoluble liquid often used in nail polish and paint, can cause drowsiness, headaches, nausea and even death as a result of kidney or liver failure.

Health officials in Greater Taichung handed Huang Guan a NT$1.5 million (US$50,000) fine and ordered it to stop its container production immediately.

The company gave the officials a list of 50 customers that are being asked by the authorities to remove any of the contaminated containers already on the market.

Huang Guan is the nation’s fourth-largest supplier of paper food and drink containers.