TAIPEI - The Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW) on Tuesday refused to publish a list of the 30 cooking oil products that failed tests for fatty acids due to other ongoing investigations of oil manufacturers. The MHW has been conducting large-scale inspections on 166 oil manufacturers nationwide, and among 88 oil samples that underwent fatty acid tests, 30 of them failed inspection.
According to the MHW, 25 of the 30 oil samples that failed inspection are made in Taiwan, and those 25 samples were accordingly transferred to local health authorities for further investigation.
Based on local reports, the MHW discovered that certain olive oils manufactured by big-name brands contained chlorophyllin copper complex, a food colouring additive also discovered in cooking oil produced by Tatung Changchi Foodstuff Factory Co., but refused to announce the names of those brands.
MHW spokesman Wang Che-chao (王哲超) said that the main focus of inspections is the concentrations of fatty acids in the oil; thus far, though, the MHW has been unable to confirm the presence of chlorophyllin copper complex in oil samples without a pure sample of the additive to use in tests.
"The MHW has to cooperate with prosecutors and local health officials to look into the contents of cooking oils in order to find out if the manufacturers meet the regulations," said Wang.
"We did not try to hide information from the public," said Wang. "MHW cannot reveal the names of the manufacturers because the investigations are still ongoing."
Wang also said that since the MHW initiated these massive inspections, oil manufacturers have not had the opportunity to illegally destroy evidence.
Chlorophyllin Copper Complex Hard to Discover: Expert
Meiho University's Vice Principal Chen Ching-chuan said that it is difficult for health authorities to determine the presence of chlorophyllin copper complex in cooking oil with conventional tests due to the lack of an experimental sample of chlorophyllin copper complex for comparison.
Chen said that chlorophyllin copper complex which is water-soluble can be legally added into gelatin, but the chlorophyllin copper complex added to Changchi's cooking oil is oil-soluble.
"The inspection ability in Taiwan regarding foods is outstanding, but no SGS laboratory has tested for the presence of chlorophyllin copper complex because experimental samples of oil-soluble chlorophyllin copper complex are not available in Taiwan," said Chen.
According to Chen, based on regulations, it is illegal to add chlorophyllin copper complex into any oil products, but it will be hard for the authorities to mete out punishment because it is impossible for health authorities to conduct inspections in order to find out whether cooking oils samples contain the additive.