Another food scandal concerning cooking oil has led to the market withdrawal of 68 brands in Taiwan. This time Wei Chuan Foods Corp., a subsidiary of Ting Hsin International Group (China’s biggest instant noodle maker), is accused of blending bad batches of oils for sale as cooking oil.
According to reports, part of the oil was obtained from the Po Yuen Lard Company in Yuen Long, which said it made the oil from unsold pork scraps from produce markets which it sold to animal feed factories, bio-diesel and export companies. That oil was then blended with “gutter oil,” an illegal substance made from kitchen waste.
The Wei Chuan Foods Corp chairman, Wei Ying-chung, was interrogated back in November 2013 on charges of fraud and breach of food safety, but he was released on $340,000 bail. Prosecutors suspected his business group had made $28.6 million in illegal profits.
Wei Chuan also recalled tens of thousands of bottles of cooking oil adulterated with a banned coloring agent in 2013.
Wei stepped down as chairman of Wei Chuan Foods before his arrest. He is being detained during the investigation.
The Taiwanese government initially guaranteed the quality of Ting Hsin International Group oil, but some irregularities were discovered and reported to the investigators on September 18.
Eight days later, the company was ordered to withdraw the adulterated products. This news was not released, though, because the government said prosecutors had asked that the investigation remain confidential. When the news finally leaked this week, the authorities ordered the immediate pulling of all of the company’s 68 brands from shelves everywhere.
The Taipei Times reports that the adulterated oil could have been used by 52 schools and 363 food companies in Taiwan, but the Taiwanese Food and Drug Administration have not disclosed their names. Now the local authorities are investigating where the adulterated products might also have been exported to.
Reactions to the scandal were immediate, and far-reaching: In China a boycott has started against the Ting Hsin International Group and the Internet is buzzing with concern by many who fear the adulterated oil has been used in products exported to their own markets. Their concern is justified. Taiwan absorbs just a part of the Ting Hsin Group production, and it is likely its products are now in other countries, especially China.
If convicted, Wei could be sentenced to imprisonment up to 15 years, along with several executives of the company.