Taiwan tycoon detained over food safety scandal

Taiwan tycoon detained over food safety scandal
A local resident ride past a logo of Taiwan's Wei Chuan Foods Corp. in Longtan, Taoyuan county on October 14, 2014.

TAIPEI - A Taiwanese tycoon was taken into custody Friday after his company was implicated in a food safety scandal that resulted in a massive product recall.

Wei Ying-chung, ex-chairman of Wei Chuan Foods Corp, a unit of food giant Ting Hsin International Group, was detained on suspicions of fraud and food safety violations on the grounds that he could collude with other witnesses or destroy evidence, a court statement said.

Wei Chuan was accused of selling oil intended for animal food, which is banned for human use, as regular lard and cooking oil in the latest food safety scare that has gripped Taiwan and triggered public outrage against the company.

Wei last week stepped down as chairman of Wei Chuan and two other units after he was implicated in the scandal that saw more than 60 types of lard, cooking oil, margarine and related products removed from sale for containing oil intended for animal feed.

As of Friday, around 400 tonnes of products adulterated with feed oil had been pulled from shelves, according to health officials.

The Ting Hsin group, which also owns the instant noodle brand Master Kong popular in China and Taiwan, said Thursday that it would donate Tw$3 billion (S$125.7 million) to the Taiwanese government or approved foundations, after local consumers started boycotting its products since the scandal erupted.

Last month, Wei Chuan was among the hundreds of companies that removed products from sale in a damaging "gutter oil" scandal, which brought down Taiwan's health minister.

Wei Chuan also recalled tens of thousands of bottles of cooking oil adulterated with a banned colouring agent in late 2013.

Former chairman Wei, together with his three brothers, are worth an estimated US$8.6 billion (S$11 billion) placing them in second place on Taiwan's rich list with investments in food, beverage, real estate and telecom sectors, according to Forbes magazine.

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