Fraudulent oil firm raided
By Ted Chen ,The China PostTAIPEI, Taiwan -- Prosecutors yesterday raided the Changhua-based manufacturing facilities of Tatung Changchi Foodstuff Factory Co. Ltd. (大統長基食品) to verify allegations of false advertisement and tainted products against the company.
October 19, 2013, 12:42 am TWN
According to reports, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA, 食品藥物管理局) received a tip-off from the public on Aug. 28, raising concerns of impure products being sold by the company. Following a monthlong investigation, prosecutors yesterday afternoon stormed the company's facilities.
Due to the complexity of manufacturing natural cooking oils, it is difficult to prove intentional wrongdoing from a simple examination of the final product, due to the degree of volatility in quality standards found in the industry, said FDA officials. The officials explained the one-month lull before authorities took action by saying that the raid yesterday is the culmination of lengthy preparation across governing bodies.
Prosecutors say they uncovered deceptive advertising practices regarding a number of the firm's products. Most scathingly, many of the company's cooking oils products contained no traces of advertised ingredients, said investigators. Peanut and chili oils sold by the company contained no traces of peanuts and chilies.
Most notably, the firm's purported 100-percent premium olive oil products were found to be not made from olives. Prosecutors found that premium olive oils sold by the company were composed entirely of cheaper low-grade cooking oils which were mixed with additives to take on the guise and taste of olive oil. Investigators found that the company had employed the use of copper cholorphyllin, an additive made from plant extracts. The substance is permitted for use as food coloring in the European Union, but its food use in the U.S. is limited to dry citrus beverages, according to reports.
Meanwhile, beleaguered company chairman Kao Chun-li (高振利) yesterday delivered a 2-minute explanation and apology to the press for what he called an “operational oversight.” However, in regards to the olive oil products in question, Kao downplayed the allegations, asserting that the products do indeed contain oil made from olives. After prompting by the press, Kao admitted the company's olive oils were diluted with hileotrope oil, but declined to disclose the actual proportion of the mixture, citing the figure as among the company's guarded trade secrets. After further prompting by the press, Kao testified that the company's products contained 80-percent pure olive oil, as opposed as the 40 percent suggested by previous media reports. Kao asserted that the food additive copper cholorphyllin is renowned for its health properties as a supplement.
The company makes more than 100 types of cooking oil products, some under its own brands and some as a contract manufacturer for other brands. According to prosecutors, over half of the companies were deemed questionable following the investigation yesterday.
According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW, 衛服部), depending on the conclusion of the investigations and severity of the infractions, the company may be punished with a maximum fine of NT$15 million, with management liable to prison sentences under three years. The company's products have since been pulled from shelves nationwide.
The MHW yesterday also indicated discontent with a recent ruling by the New Taipei District Court, which leveled a paltry NT$1.2 million in fines against the perpetrators of the plasticizer scandal two years ago, noting that it will provide full support for further appeals on the case.