New Taipei City food firm investigated for using industrial gypsum

New Taipei City food firm investigated for using industrial gypsum

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Lu-Chia Foods Company (盧佳食品公司) in New Taipei City is under investigation after it was discovered that the company added industrial gypsum powder, which is commonly used in chemical engineering, to make tofu pudding; the firm also stored grass tea (仙草茶) in empty hemodialysis concentrated solution containers, according to the Public Health Department of the New Taipei City Government (新北市政府衛生局).

Health Department official Lin Kuan-chin (林冠蓁) said that these tainted products were mostly sold in restaurants and by food & drink and shaved ice vendors in New Taipei City. Lin added that the amount of tainted products released on the market is still being investigated. The Health Department seized 2 kilograms of industrial gypsum powder and 46.8 kilograms of tofu pudding from the company during an inspection.

In order to guarantee food safety, the New Taipei City Government set up a task force on Oct. 28 to inspect underground food factories. From Oct. 29 to Nov. 6, 499 officials were sent to inspect 235 factories, among which 126 had allegedly violated food safety laws.

Lin said that the gypsum powder used by Lu-Chia is not labelled as a food additive. A spokesperson for Lu-Chia's supplier said that the powder is a calcium sulfate raw material used in chemical engineering, which cannot be added to food products. Lin said that the empty containers are technically medical waste and not suitable for storing food, adding that Lu-Chia also violated the Waste Disposal Act.

Lin said although the hemodialysis concentrated solutions were for dialysis treatment, containing necessary chemicals to sustain the human body including electrolyte solution, sodium bicarbonate and potassium chloride, there are still health risks involved, even if the company owner said that the empty containers were washed with hot water. Lin added that food companies need to add food-grade gypsum to make jelly grass, but gypsum for chemical engineering is not as pure and may harm people's health.

Lu-Chia has been fined NT$240,000 (S$10,100) and the case has been transferred to investigators on suspicion of violating the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation.

Lu-Chia, based in Sanchong District, New Taipei City, is also known as Lu-Chia Grass Jelly (盧家仙草).

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