Master Kong owner apologises as food scandals hit Taiwan

Master Kong owner apologises as food scandals hit Taiwan

TAIPEI - The owner of the Master Kong instant noodle brand apologised Tuesday after its Taiwan units were ordered to recall tens of thousands of bottles of adulterated cooking oil.

Ting Hsin International Group made the public apology amid a string of scandals involving several major cooking oil retailers that have rocked the island.

The group was on Sunday ordered to remove from shelves 21 types of cooking oil that were tainted with copper chlorophyllin.

According to Taiwan's Food and Drug Administration, the agent can be added to some processed foods, but is banned from use in cooking oil.

The group was fined Tw$3 million ($102,000) for failing to provide health officials with the list of adulterated oil items during their recent check of a plant.

"We apologise to the shareholders and the general public for the unrest caused to you," Wei Yin-chun, chairman of the group's Taiwan unit Wei Chuan Foods Corp, said while bowing along with his brother Wei Yin-heng and two other group executives during a press conference in Taipei.

But Wei Yin-chun insisted that they had not been aware the oil - purchased from Changchi Foodstuff Factory Co, which is at the centre of the snowballing food scandals - contained the banned colouring agent until recently.

Despite the apology, health officials said the group could face another fine of Tw$300 million if an investigation showed it had known beforehand the oil from Changchi was laced with the banned agent.

Wei also told reporters that all the oil used by Master Kong to produce instant noodles in China was palm oil from Malaysia. Master Kong is the biggest instant noodle brand in China, selling hundreds of thousands of packets a year.

The Changchi food scandal surfaced in the middle of last month, after it was found to have adulterated olive oil with cheap cottonseed oil and the banned colouring agent for many years.

Prosecutors in Changhua county, where Changchi is headquartered, last month indicted company chairman Kao Chen-li on charges of violating the food safety law and making huge illegal profits through false labelling.

The local government also slapped a record fine of Tw$1.85 billion ($62.9 million) on Kao last month.

Prosecutors also indicted the owner of Flavor Full Foods Inc, a leading sesame oil producer in Taiwan, on charges of adulterating their produce with cottonseed oil.

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