The plasticizer settlement: what it means for food safety
The China Post news staffLast week 37 suppliers of food additives were hit with a NT$1.2 million class-action judgment by the New Taipei District Court for providing toxic plasticizer-tainted additives to food manufacturers.
October 22, 2013, 12:06 am TWN
The judgment was a fraction of the NT$2.4 billion demanded by the Consumers' Foundation, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of 568 victims. Citing in part information publicized by the Ministry of Health and Welfare's Health Promotion Administration explaining that plasticizers pose no health risks because the human body can expel them over a short period of time, the court said it did not find evidence of consumers' physical or emotional suffering as a result of the plasticizer-tainted products.
In arguing that a Health Promotion Administration handbook cited by the court made an unscientific claim that human bodies can expel plasticizing agents within 48 hours, regardless of variations in body weight or the dosage of plasticizers ingested, representatives of the victims questioned whether the court's decision to rely on information released by the Ministry of Health and Welfare was a move intended to placate the public.
The judgment against the firms responsible for one of the biggest food safety scandals in Taiwan's history was widely criticized as too lenient, especially given the dearth of experts warning of the dangerous effects of such chemicals. Based on the quantity of plasticizers found in food, Kenneth Wu (伍焜玉), head of the National Health Research Institute (NHRI), estimated that in 2011 Taiwanese people were 10- to 20-times more exposed to the chemicals. Such exposure could lead to increased cancer risks and kidney damage, he said. Taiwan had the highest rate of hemodialysis in the world and it is highly possible that plasticizers can cause kidney damage, Wu pointed out, adding that long-term tracking is needed to fully understand the impact of high plasticizer exposure.