Another Taiwanese company dragged into edible oil scandal

TAIPEI - Another oil scandal broke yesterday, as it was discovered that Cheng-I Food Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of Ting Hsin Group, mixed animal feed oil with cooking oil and sold it for human consumption. Investigators said that the mixed oil could do damage to the human body, and affected products were removed from shelves in markets all over Taiwan.

A spokesperson of the Tainan District Prosecutors Office (TDPO) said that Cheng-I bought the animal feed oil from Hsin Hao Company and mixed it with edible oil to produce cooking oil.

According to the TDPO's investigation, Cheng-I bought 1,800 metric tons of animal feed oil from Hsin Hao over the past three years. Three types of cooking oil products are alleged to be tainted: wei-lih sesame oil, wei-lih lard oil and Cheng-I lard oil.

The TDPO held Hsin Hao CEO Wu Jung-he incommunicado yesterday for allegedly committing fraud and violating the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation.

Top management from Cheng-I claimed that they were told by Hsin Hao that the feed oil was edible when they purchased it.

The manager added that Cheng-I bought the oil product from Hsin Hao for NT$29.5 (S$1.24) to NT$33 per kilogram, prices in line with the usual cost of base oil for the production of cooking oil.

According to the manager, Cheng-I did not sacrifice the public's health for profit. The company feels deeply sorry and frustrated for the situation.

Wu was reported to be a marketing representative at Cheng-I, but resigned from his previous position to found Hsin Hao, a wholesale company, in 2004.

FDA Takes Action

During the Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee interpellation session yesterday morning, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Deputy Director-General Chiang Yu-mei said that the FDA is investigating the tainted oil products, in response to a question from Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Wang Yu-min.

Chiang said that the FDA Southern Center for Regional Administration is verifying the source, date of production and lot number of Cheng-I's lard oils in order to determine if the oil products are tainted.

The FDA will publish subsequent findings as the investigation progresses. If the findings prove that the oils are tainted, officials from the FDA will demand that retailers remove the oil products from shelves.

Currently, retailers are asked to temporarily remove the questionable oil products from shelves. In addition, Cheng-I cannot deliver more suspect products to retailers.

FDA and COA Blunder

After the waste oil scandal involving Chang Guann Co. broke in September, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tuan Yi-kang held a press conference on Sept. 12 stating that Cheng-I's oil products are tainted. The FDA and the Council of Agriculture (COA) denied the charge and defended the products. Tuan said that the FDA and the COA should take responsibility for the oversight.