Toxic starch seller held, fined NT$18 mil.
By Chi-hao James Lo , The China Post
December 19, 2013, 12:10 am TWN
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Hsu Tung-ming (徐東銘), the CEO of a Tainan starch manufacturer who was fined over his involvement in a toxic starch scandal last May, was detained yesterday after being found guilty of selling toxic starch since September by the Tainan District Court and was fined NT$18 million by the Tainan City Government.
“I cannot bear to know that NT$10 million-worth of my products will be destroyed and go to waste,” said Hsu, CEO of Mao Li Starch Co. (茂利澱粉公司). Established by Hsu's father, the 66-year-old company was found to have been selling starch made with maleic acid, a chemical compound added to increase the chewy texture of various food products produced with the starch such as Taiwanese meatballs, rice noodles, tapioca balls, bean pudding and green bean noodles.
Having been found previously selling contaminated products to the public, Hsu was slapped with a fine of NT$120,000 back in May, before the Food Sanitation Management Act was amended. After paying off his fine, Hsu made a public statement promising to recall contaminated merchandise and compensate consumers for returns. However, a loophole by which contaminated goods were allowed to be returned either directly to Mao Li or through local public health bureaus gave Hsu the opportunity to repackage the toxic starch and put it back on the market in order to recoup his losses.
The crime was exposed after continuous efforts by the Public Health Bureau of Tainan in examining over 133 food products over the last four months. After flagging a fried chicken franchise whose products contained high amounts of maleic acid, the bureau was able to trace the source back to Mao Li, where it was revealed that the company had sold over 55 tons of contaminated products on the market, a revelation that came as a surprise to investigators as Mao Li has passed all inspections conducted by the bureau since September.
Searches conducted on company property revealed a secret warehouse located 300 meters from the factory, which stored over 450 tons of Hsu's remaining toxic starch. Further investigations proved that Hsu had resold the contaminated products either by mixing contaminated starch with inspection-approved starch, or simply by repackaging toxic products under the name of Mao Li's competitors.
In contrast to his seemingly shameless and carefree attitude during the previous incident in which he was fined NT$120,000, Hsu seemed more shaken up when faced with the prospect of 3 years in prison and up to NT$ 3 million in fines after his arrest yesterday. Hsu is also required to pay up to NT$15 million for his second violation as stated in the amended Food Sanitation Management Act.