The Government Information Office (GIO) of Taiwan hosted a press conference on June 20 to discuss the plasticizer food safety scare inTaiwan. Representatives from the Department of Health (DOH), Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA), Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and the Consumer Protection Commission were also on hand to answer questions from international journalists and provide updates on the government’s handling of the matter so as to clear up any remaining doubts about the safety ofTaiwan’s food products.
GIO Minister Phillip Y.M. Yang opened the press conference and stressed that the government has brought its full weight to bear to resolve this crisis. All response measures have been implemented without incident. As of June 17, investigations into the clouding agent producers Yu Shen Chemical Co. and Pin Han Perfumery Co., have found that the overall situation has not worsened. As such, the investigation process has so far been very successful, he said. Yang also stressed that Premier Wu Den-yih will personally preside over food and drug safety meetings every month to ensure continued safety.
DOH Minister Chiu Wen-ta said that contaminated products were found to have been exported to 21 countries as of June 17, and the World Health Organization has already been notified. All manufacturers found to have used contaminated additives have been subject to inspection, while all tainted products were recalled and openly destroyed by local governments on June 12 to ensure the products do not return to the market and ease people’s concern.
According to EPA Deputy Minister Chang Tzi-chin, Taiwan’s Toxic Chemical Substances Control Act aims to control hazards at their sources and employs a classification scheme to manage the chemicals. In the current food safety incident, the primary plasticizer, DEHP, is categorized as a Class 4 toxic chemical substance, and the EPA is currently considering reclassifying DEHP as a higher-class hazard. The EPA will also follow European Union regulations and upclassify seven types of plasticizers to Class 1 or Class 2 toxic chemical substances.
Additionally, MOJ Deputy Minister Chen Shou-huang indicated that his department and all subordinate prosecutors offices will continue to investigate the matter with rigor and speed to locate the origins of the additives and determine how products were contaminated. The Changhua District Prosecutors Office and the Banciao District Prosecutors Office are investigating the owners of Yu Shen Chemical and Pin Han Perfumery, respectively, and are seeking 25-year prison terms in both cases.
MOEA Deputy Minister Liang Kuo-hsin said that, in order to regain consumer’s confidence, his ministry is setting up a new production tracing database for five main categories—sports drinks; juices; tea beverages; jam, syrup and jelly; and capsules, tablets or powder—that bear the Good Manufacturing Practices mark. The MOEA will also will use the Internet to allow consumers to check the database online.
The press conference was attended by representatives from dozens of foreign missions in Taiwan, as well as international journalists. The GIO said that it would continue to keep the international media abreast of the latest developments.