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May 30, 2017

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Tripodking founder gives apologies over food scare

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The founder of the hotpot restaurant chain Tripodking yesterday apologized to the public and asked for a second chance in the wake of a number of violations to health and advertising laws for its problematic food ingredients.

Chen Shih-ming bowed a total of six times to convey his apology throughout a press conference he held in Taichung to ask for forgiveness from the public, but maintained that all spicy hotpot ingredients were legal.

He claimed that the false advertisements were merely the result of "administrative mistakes."

His attorney, Lo Feng-yan, speaking at the same press conference, did confirm reports that there is a dispute among Tripodking's shareholders, but the founder has already filed a fraud lawsuit. The attorney declined to give further details.

Tripodking has already been given hefty fines totaling NT$3.8 million by Taichung's health authorities over a number of violations, since a magazine reported about two weeks ago that the popular restaurant chain was not selling what it was claiming to sell.

It claimed its soup stock was "naturally" made with 32 herbal ingredients, but it has since been found that much fewer were used, and chicken bouillon was added to the soup.

It has also been found that it ran false advertisements about running its own salt-making factory and that truffle was used in the making of its soup stock.

But Chen said he wanted to apologize to the public over his "incompetence" on behalf of the over 1,000 Tripodking employees and their families.

He said he started as a cook at a night market and knew little about anything other than making hotpot. He claimed that he was committed to making the most delicious hotpot.

While admitting that he had made mistakes, he said the only correct thing to do was to apologize. He said that he "humbly" accepted the health authorities' penalties and the consumer protection officials' guidance.

He promised to remedy all mistakes, asking consumers to give him a second chance.

Some reports have indicated that despite the scandal, the numbers of patrons eating at Tripodking outlets have not significantly declined.

Reports have indicated that the dispute between Tripodking shareholders and the company stemmed from the chain's plan to list on Taiwan's stock market.

Chen gave a 20 percent stake of Tripodking to a friend in the securities sector in exchange for his help with the listing.

But after the plan was aborted, Chen increased the capital of the chain in order to dilute the stake that his friend held. This angered the friend, who went on to plot a series of exposes against Tripodking, according to reports.

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