Prosecutors in Changhua County yesterday indicted the chairman of a sesame oil producer and five other executives after discovering that it has been selling adulterated oil labeled as 100 percent pure since 2009. Prosecutors recommended confiscating more than NT$300 million (US$10.2 million) of what they call ill-gotten gains from Flavor Full Foods Inc, the largest sesame oil producer in Taiwan and the second-largest in the world.
The indicted officials include chairman Chen Wen-nan (陳文南), development director Chen Jui-li (陳瑞禮), and research and development manager Lin Jui-tsung (林瑞聰), along with three others, all of whom face charges of fraud and violating the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法), according to Changhua prosecutors.
The New Taipei City-based (新北市) company originally claimed it only used refined cottonseed oil in products sold abroad, but later admitted that the lower quality oil was mixed into 24 products sold domestically. The case is being handled by the Changhua District Prosecutors’ Office because the company’s factory is located in the county.
Suspicions over the company’s practices were revealed last month, at around the same time the spotlight fell on Chang Chi Foodstuff Factory Co, which also has an edible oil factory in Changhua. Chang Chi, which sells its products under the Tatung brand, had been using copper chlorophyllin, a coloring agent banned for use in cooking oil, in its olive oil and was found to be adulterating higher-end cooking oils with cheaper cottonseed oil.
Meanwhile, health authorities yesterday leveled a fine of NT$1.85 billion against Chang Chi Foodstuff Factory for deceiving consumers for years by selling adulterated products branded as pure oils.
The Changhua County health authorities had earlier fined the company a total of NT$40.3 million on charges of violating the Act Governing Food Sanitation, but the Ministry of Health and Welfare decided that the fine was too low.
The central government demanded that the county government levy a much stiffer fine against the company, which, according to local prosecutors, had made illicit gains of NT$1.85 billion by mixing many of its high-priced products with cheaper cottonseed oil and had misled consumers by deliberately mislabeling the items.
Yeh Yen-po (葉彥伯), head of the county’s Public Health Bureau, said that Chang Chi must pay the fine within a month unless it appeals and wins.
The Changhua District Prosecutors’ Office has indicted Chang Chi’s top executives for fraud and violating public health laws, and is seeking a court fine of NT$1.85 billion. If the court agrees, Chang Chi could face total fines of NT$3.7 billion, an amount that could bring down the business.