Firm blamed in seasoning scandal

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Apr 01, 2015 - Page 3

A Taichung-based company was found to have sold chemicals meant for industrial use to several downstream companies for the manufacture of seasoning powder products, affecting more than 200 food companies nationwide, the Changhua County Public Health Bureau said yesterday.

Taichung’s Changhua District Prosecutors’ Office began investigating the Yi Hsing Trading Company (誼興貿易) after it was notified of health bureau findings in November last year that the Ching Hsing Hang Powder Manufacturing Factory (進興行製粉廠) and Junn Shing Pepper Powder Factory Ltd (進興製粉有限公司) had allegedly added magnesium carbonate intended for industrial use to pepper powder, the health bureau said.

On Monday, prosecutors and health agency officials raided seven locations in Changhua City and in Taichung’s Dali (大里), Taiping (太平) and Cingshuei (清水) districts.

“The raids led prosecutors to the discovery that Yi Hsing proprietor Lin Chung-chu (林中柱) had allegedly been selling magnesium carbonate for industrial use to Ching Hsing Hang and Junn Shing since 2003,” the office said in a news release issued yesterday.

The office said that the two companies then used the chemical to manufacture gourmet powder products, including pepper, chili and curry powders.

Magnesium carbonate — an inorganic salt — is a drying agent that can prevent clumping, it added.

Officials said that Lin confessed to charges of fraud and violations of the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation (食品安全衛生管理法) when he was brought in for questioning on Monday night.

The office added that he was released on NT$50,000 bail.

The bureau’s Food Safety Section director Lin Yu-fen (林毓芬) said that the agency has traced Yi Hsing sales to a third downstream company, Changhua-based Cheng Ching Gourmet Powder Manufacturing Co (澄清製粉行).

“According to business records of the implicated companies from 2012 to last year, it is estimated that they have used the substance in question to produce 81 tonnes of seasoning powder involving 39 different products, including white pepper powder, black pepper powder, food colorings No. 6 and No. 7, and steamed meat powder,” Lin Yu-fen said.

A preliminary investigation showed that the questionable seasoning powders have been sold to 207 firms in 16 cities and counties, she added.

Lin Yu-fen said edible magnesium carbonate is a legitimate food additive primarily used to absorb moisture in seasoning powders.

“However, magnesium carbonate that is intended for industrial applications could contain heavy metals such as lead and arsenic because it is less refined. Long-term consumption of the substance can lead to liver and renal impairment,” she said.

The price difference between food-quality magnesium carbonate and that meant for industry could be the cause of the alleged transgression, Lin added.