Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) yesterday accused the Ministry of Health and Welfare of being irresponsible by making public a list of “safe” edible oil products before making sure that the products are free of a potentially harmful chemical.
N-hexane is a chemical used to extract cottonseed oil and olive oil pomace, but since food-grade n-hexane is expensive, Tien alleged that some food manufacturing companies have been using industrial-grade n-hexane to cut costs.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare recently released a list of 110 oil products, which it said have passed the tests and are “safe,” but which Tien said could be an overstatement.
“How can you guarantee the safety of these oils without testing the products for n-hexane, which is used to extract cottonseed oil and olive pomace oil [that have been used by Chang Chi Foodstuff Factory Co to pass off as high grade oil]?” Tien asked at a legislative session.
Tien added that experts have said that the chemical, along with benzene and toluene which might be release during the extraction process, are carcinogenic.
Food and Drug Administration Director-General Yeh Ming-kung (葉明功) said the list includes oil products that have tested negative for copper chlorophyllin and gossypol, and contain standard corresponding fatty acid compositions, while the testing method for n-hexane is now under development.
Tien replied that as testing method is not yet complete, the ministry should not have claimed that the products were safe.
Lawmakers also blasted a statement released and published on four major Chinese-language newspapers by Wei Chuan Food Corp, saying that the company had undertaken no oil adulteration or sold counterfeit products.
In the statement, Wei Chuan also described itself as a “victim” because it sourced its oil products from Chang Chi Foodstuff Factory Co.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wu Yu-jen (吳育仁) accused the company of “raking in the money, but trying to shirk its responsibility.”
DDP Legislator Chen Chieh-ju (陳節如) said the ministry should sue the company and other food safety violators.
When asked by lawmakers whether it was correct for the company to say that it had not done the “mixing of oils” itself, Yeh said it is a fact that 21 of Wei Chuan’s “end-products” have been pulled off shelves.
“It can be said that the company had failed in its management,” Yeh added.
As to Wei Chuan’s claim that its products does not contain copper chlorophyllin and gossypol, according to a third-party’s examinations to which the company had sent its products, Yeh said he stands by the FDA’s testing method and results.