I-Mei Foods caught storing mislabeled products

TAIPEI, Taiwan - I-Mei Foods Co. Ltd. was reported by the Taoyuan Department of Public Health yesterday to have stored mislabeled and expired food products in its factory in Nankan, Taoyuan after a late-night investigation on July 2.

The local health department and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) handled the investigation. In response to the brand-tarnishing news, I-Mei's Nankan factory said that the confiscated batch of mislabeled packages were "returned products."

The former employee who was in charge of managing the freezer had retired, and failed to hand over the tasks to the succeeding employees of the job, factory officials explained. The food products had been kept in the freezer at under 25 degrees Celsius, and had turned into inedible and unsellable "ice cubes."

Employee management will be handled accordingly and improved upon for failing to dealing with the returned products immediately, factory officials said.

On the other hand, Kao Chih-ming, general manager of I-Mei, was enraged by the investigation and alleged that the sudden search was based upon I-Mei's absence from the Food Safety Month Awareness event, which was held on July 1, a day before the search.

According to the statement released by I-Mei, the mislabeled incident was an oversight by factory employee management, and the employees in charge had failed to follow the company's standard procedures in disposing of the returned products.

"I-Mei will never sell expired food products," the statement declared.

Products of the Past and Future

According to health officials, they had unearthed a batch of I-Mei's "Chocolate Soft-Served Ice Cream" with a manufacturing date labelled June 29 in the factory's freezers.

In the same batch of products, officials also found 192 packages of ice cream with expiration dates on July 13, July 16 and July 17.

During the same round of investigations, health officials also uncovered and confiscated 29 items, amounting to 1,703 expired food products. Among the problematic products were foods stamped with labels that showed expiration dates from over nine years ago.

Officials found 64 crates of "I-Mei's New Years' Dish,", expired on Jan. 18, 2006, 231 boxes of Fish Head Casserole, expired on Dec. 31, 2005, 211 crates of "Quality Buddha Jumps Over the Wall", expired on Feb. 6 and Feb. 7 in 2006, and 146 boxes of "Cantonese-styled barbecued Rice Cake," labelled to expire on Jan. 24, 2013.

According to the FDA, food product companies cannot label products with future expiration dates, which violate the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation articles 28 and 45. Violators of Paragraph 1 of Article 28 or government regulations enacted under Paragraph 3 of Article 28 face a fine of between NT$40,000 and NT$400,000.

Consumers can call 0800-285-000 to report allegedly problematic or mislabeled products.

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