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Yu Shen to pay NT$130 mil. in plasticizer case

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Taichung branch of the Taiwan High Court yesterday ruled that Yu Shen Co. (昱伸公司) must compensate Uni-President NT$130 million for supplying the conglomerate with plasticizer-tainted food additives.

According to the verdict, Lai Chun-chieh (賴俊傑), owner of Yu Shen, and his wife illegally added plasticizers to clouding agents, an approved food additive between 1996 and 2006, and supplied those products to food manufacturers.

Clouding agents, mostly emulsifiers, are added to drinks to give them an appealingly natural opacity. Some plasticizers, such as DINP or the cancer-causing DEHP, have been used as substitutes for palm oil, which is a common and legal ingredient in emulsifiers but many times more expensive, in the manufacture of emulsifiers in Taiwan.

The ruling said that Uni-President purchased certain plasticizer-tainted clouding agents and added them to drinks during the manufacturing process.

After the plasticizer scandal broke, the ruling said, Uni-President was forced to take all its plasticizer-tainted products off shelves, so the company decided to sue Lai and his wife for NT$1 billion in compensation for the damage Uni-President suffered from the scandal.

The court's ruling said that based on property and reputation damages suffered by Uni-President due to their unknowing use of plasticizer-tainted food additives, Yu Shen must compensate Uni-President NT$130 million.

Lai and his wife were already convicted over violations of the Act Governing Food Sanitation, with the former sentenced to 15 years in prison and fined NT$150,000, and the latter sentenced to 12 years confinement and hit with a NT$120,000 fine. Yu Shen was also fined NT$24 million for supplying plasticizer-tainted food additives.

The Consumers' Foundation filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of 568 victims in March 2012, demanding that 37 companies accused of supplying tainted additives to be mixed into clouding agents, among them Yu Shen and Ben Hur Co. (賓漢公司), pay net compensation of at least NT$7.8 billion. The sum was cut to NT$2.4 billion, and the New Taipei District Court only awarded NT$1,200,000 in compensation to over 500 victims.

The foundation announced its dissatisfaction with the low sum in the ruling handed down by the New Taipei District Court over the toxic plasticizers affair on Nov. 15, saying that they would file a class action appeal to ensure that justice was done.

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