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Servicemen, food provider staff detained over meat scam

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Tainan District Prosecutors Office yesterday detained three suspects involved in a meat scam after a local company was found allegedly colluding with military personnel to sell meat products containing a water-retaining agent, a food additive that increases the weight of products to garner higher profits, to military units around the country.

The three detained suspects include an R.O.C. Marine Corps sergeant, a civilian staff member working at the military unit responsible for providing food products to troops, and an employee working for the food provider, the office said.

The latest move was made after prosecutors questioned 83 personnel allegedly involved in the scandal and searched 69 different locations, among them military units, the office said.

Prosecutors said they had received tips last year that Nung Cheng Hsien (農正鮮), one of the main meat providers for the military, has been putting a water-retaining agent in frozen meat, which is a violation of the Act Governing Food Sanitation, before selling the products to the military.

By adding the water-retaining agent to frozen meat, the weight of the meat can double, helping enhance profits for the company.

To cover their illicit act, the company has allegedly offered bribes and paid for sex services for those personnel in the military responsible for doing business with food providers so that the company could keep selling problematic products to the armed forces, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors yesterday said that they are still probing the case to find if more military officials are involved in the scam in order to understand why the military has maintained its business relationship with Nung Cheng Hsien for over seven years, despite the company having violated its contract 100 times.

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