The Supreme Court yesterday affirmed the guilty ruling for a Kaohsiung couple for using unapproved chemical additives in kelp products, upholding one-year prison sentences for both.
The court also confiscated NT$7.61 million (US$257,914) to compensate for illicit profits from their business, and imposed fines of NT$1.8 million for the couple, surnamed Pan (潘) and Chen (陳), for breaches of the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation (食品安全衛生管理法).
Health authorities had in March 2015 received reports that the kelp products sold by the couple contained industrial-grade additives, which are only approved for use in food in small amounts, including ammonium bicarbonate, ammonium aluminium sulfate, sodium dithionite and acetic acid.
Judicial investigators and Kaohsiung Department of Health officers later seized the prohibited chemical substances from the couple, which they had added to their products to soften them and freshen their appearance.
Investigators said the couple operated a produce shop in Fongshan District (鳳山), from which they distributed their products to food retailers, markets and restaurants in the region.
Prosecutors in the first trial said the couple had started to use the additives in 2002, and estimated that they had made about NT$7.61 million in illicit profits in over 14 years, having sold up to 3.6 tonnes of kelp products per month.
The couple appealed the verdict and judges of the Kaohsiung branch of the High Court reversed the decision in the second ruling, citing the couple as saying that they had only used additives that it deemed approved by health authorities.
However, in yesterday’s ruling, which cannot be appealed, Supreme Court judges concurred with prosecutors who claimed that the couple had purposely bought food additives labeled as “for industrial use only,” and deemed “not suitable for human consumption.”
The judges stated that the couple had used the additives to reduce costs, knowing that the chemicals might be dangerous to consumers.
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