Food scandals in Taiwan that have left a bad taste

Local vendors from traditional markets display protest signs to boycott the Wei Chuan Foods Corp. during a demonstration in Panchiao district, New Taipei City on Oct 14, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Local vendors from traditional markets display protest signs to boycott the Wei Chuan Foods Corp. during a demonstration in Panchiao district, New Taipei City on Oct 14, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

TAIPEI - A number of food scares in Taiwan have undermined faith in the island's food manufacturers, and even the ruling party, which suffered heavy losses in local elections last month.

From gutter oil to tainted tofu, here are the unsavoury revelations that have been served one after another to an outraged public:

Instant noodles with banned dye

The latest food scandal involves the use of a banned dye in the sauce packages of two flavours of instant noodles produced by leading food company Wei Lih Industrial Co.

The sauce packages contain dimethyl yellow, a dye that has been found to cause liver cancer in animals, said the Taiwanese authorities who ordered a recall of the noodles on Thursday.

Wei Lih said in a statement that its own tests found no traces of the banned dye in the suspected products, but they were recalling them as a precaution and apologised to the consumers for causing any unease, AFP reported.

Tainted tofu

On Wednesday, tonnes of tofu products, also contaminated by the industrial dye, were recalled by the authorities.

The Food and Drug Administration of Taiwan said Tainan-based company Chien Hsin has been selling soybean emulsifiers that were adulterated with the banned dye to at least 44 manufacturers, according to the China Post.

Gutter oil

There have been a number of cases where "gutter" oil and animal-grade oil were used in products meant for human consumption.

In September, hundreds of tonnes of mooncakes, pineapple tarts, bread, instant noodles as well as steamed buns and dumplings were removed from shelves in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Six products were removed from shops in Singapore.

The company caught in the scandal, Chang Guann, purchased 243 tonnes of tainted oil - collected from cookers, fryers and grease traps - from an unlicensed factory and mixed it with lard oil before selling it to customers islandwide.

A month later, food giant Ting Hsin International was accused of selling oil intended for animal food, which is banned for human use, as regular lard and cooking oil.

It led to another mass recall, and a boycott of Ting Hsin's products across the island.

Cheap oil

Last year, Flavor Full and Tatung Chang Chi Foodstuffs, Taiwan's largest edible oil makers, were said to have passed off cheap cottonseed oil as more expensive oils including olive oil. Cottonseed oil can cause infertility in men if consumed regularly.

Artificial flavourings in "all-natural" bread

Also last year, bread-maker Top Pot Bakery was found to have used artificial flavourings in its "all-natural" products.

Toxic starch in bubble tea "pearls"

In June, toxic starch was discovered in a wide variety of products including noodles and the tapioca balls used in "bubble tea" drinks.

Tainted beverages

In 2011, hundreds of beverage and health supplement products were found to be tainted with the industrial plasticiser DEHP.

Sources: Agence France-Presse, Reuters

chuimin@sph.com.sg