Taiwan’s health chief quits over gutter oil scandal
TAIPEI – Taiwan’s health chief Chiu Wen-ta resigned Friday night over a tainted oil scandal.
Chiu tendered his formal resignation to the island’s administrative head Jiang Yi-huah hours after Pingtung prosecutors indicted key suspects.
He decided to step down since the investigation has been completed, Chiu said in a statement, extending his apologies to the public. Chiu had offered to resign and take responsibility for the scandal before, but finally got Jiang’s acceptance late last night, according to Sun Lih-chyun, spokesperson of Taiwan’s administrative authority.
Prosecutors in Pingtung county on Friday indicted eight suspects on charges of fraud and breaches of food safety regulations.
Those charged included Kuo Lieh-cheng, owner of the illegal factory which made the oil, and Yeh Wen-hsiang, chairman of Chang Guann Co, which bought Kuo’s product and processed it into lard.
Taiwan has been in the grip of fear and anger since Sept 4, when police busted Kuo’s ring, selling hundreds of tonnes of cooking oil made from kitchen waste and grease from leather processing plants in Pingtung and neighboring Kaohsiung.
Yeh’s Chang Guann, a well-established cooking oil supplier on the island, produced 782 tonnes of lard from the oil and sold it to hundreds of food companies and restaurants.
Over 1,000 businesses, including leading brands such as Wei Chuan, Vedan, Want Want and Master Kong, were identified as having used the oil.
Massive recalls of products ranging from cakes to instant noodles have been taking place over the last month, making this Taiwan’s worst food scandal in recent years.
What is the ‘Gutter Oil’ Scandal of Taiwan
TAIPEI: Taiwan is struggling to contain a widening food scandal over products made from tainted oil. The island’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says as many as 1,247 food manufacturers, restaurants and bakeries are affected.
The tainted food products have also been exported to Hong Kong, Macau and other markets.
Every year during the Mid-Autumn Festival, people would queue outside Taipei Leechi to buy its food. But this year, customers are at the pastry shop to demand for refunds, after one of its products were found to be made with tainted food oil.
The century-old shop is among some 1,200 food makers struggling to deal with the latest food scandal. Taipei Leechi’s general manager, Chang Wan Ling, said: “We’ve worked hard to build up our brand. The tainted oil that we bought was certified by the government. We’re really sorry to our customers.”
Most of the affected restaurants and bakeries said they bought the tainted oil from Chang Guann, a government-certified supplier in southern Kaohsiung. Taiwan’s FDA said Chang Guann had bought hundreds of tons of recycled oil made from kitchen waste from an unlicensed factory at below-market rates.
After processing the oil, Chang Guann sold the oil to hundreds of food makers, restaurants and bakeries across the island at a premium. So far, FDA investigations showed that more than 200 food products have been tainted by the recycled oil.
The biggest buyer of the tainted oil was food manufacturer Kong Yen. It has launched legal action against Chang Guann. Other affected companies are also considering a lawsuit against the supplier.
The scandal has also widened to areas outside of Taiwan. Chiang Yu Mei, Deputy Director-General of Taiwan’s FDA, said: “So far, we have found that more than a dozen tainted products have been imported by three countries. Aside from Hong Kong and Macau, there are other places. We have already informed these countries and it will be their duty to reveal that information.”
The FDA has pledged to tighten food safety controls after the latest incident, but consumers want more to be done. “When I realize the food I ate was made from recycled oil, it made me very scared,” said a local resident. “I think the penalty (for food safety violations) is too mild. It’s no wonder these merchants are not afraid, and our consumers are too weak,” said another.
The “gutter oil” scandal is the second food scare to hit Taiwan in less than a year. Last October, several Taiwanese food makers were found selling olive oil adulterated with cottonseed oil and a banned colouring agent.
The latest scare has dealt a big blow to the island’s food reputation and threatened the health and safety of consumers in Taiwan and abroad. Authorities are working to find out how this happened. The next step will be to regain consumer trust.
*The article was collected and revised by WELLGREEN PROCESS SOLUTIONS– Sanitary valves and fittings to your food safety.