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September 22, 2017

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Spain promotes olive oil amid food scandal woes

TAIPEI--Spain sees a good opportunity in increasing its sales of olive oil to Taiwan, as the country struggles with a series of food scandals involving the use of tainted oil, Spain's representative to Taiwan said Tuesday at a seminar to promote premium Spanish olive oil.

"We see bigger demand and expectations from Taiwanese consumers, and we are now selling much more olive oil than before," said Borja Rengifo, director general of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce, which represents Spain's interests in Taiwan in the absence of bilateral diplomatic ties.

"We think it's a good opportunity because more consumers are demanding olive oil from Europe, from Spain," he told CNA on the sidelines of the seminar when asked about how he sees the food issues in Taiwan.

"We have seen statistics that imports are growing," he added. He estimated that imports of olive oil to Taiwan have increased in recent months by about 30-40 percent, although he failed to provide specific figures.

The seminar held by the Spanish office brought together some Spanish companies eager to sell their products, mainly extra virgin oil.

The office also invited Taiwanese nutritionist Hsieh I-fang to give a briefing on the benefits of olive oil at the seminar, which was attended by dozens of representatives from Taiwanese companies.

According to Hsieh, olive oil can help reduce inflammation, decrease the risk of breast cancer, lower levels of total blood cholesterol and decrease both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Olive oil is also rich in antioxidants, she added.

The seminar was part of a promotion event for Spanish olive oil and wine, which brought 25 companies from the European country to Taiwan, according to the office.

Taiwan is currently beset by a host of problems and public outrage due to a spate of recent tainted food scandals.

In September, cooking oil vendors were found to be producing so-called "edible" oil from recycled cooking oil and industrial waste, and in October, other producers were found to be using oils meant for animal feed in their products.

The discoveries have infuriated consumers and have damaged their trust in foods produced domestically. The government has responded by taking new measures aimed at ensuring food safety, including imposing heavier penalties and tightening inspections and tracking.

Local major hypermarkets and department stores said they have seen a boost in sales of imported edible oil since September, when the latest round of scandals came to light.

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