IKEA's Taichung branch caught using expired milk in ice cream

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Popular furniture retailer IKEA's Taichung branch was busted recently for using expired milk in its soft-serve ice cream, the Taichung Health Bureau (THB) said yesterday.

Tipped off by a resident, the Taichung Health Bureau dispatched officials to investigate on Oct. 17. Shortly after the probe, IKEA staff admitted to using expired milk.

Two bags of expired milk were found in the garbage disposal of IKEA's soft-serve production room, according to the THB. "One of the bags of milk was still cool to the touch, and both 10-liter bags were labelled Weichuan Soft Serve Milk."

Weichuan, a local food giant and food production arm of Ting Hsin International Group, has been under fire recently, as it acknowledged having used tainted lard oils from oil manufacturer Chang Guann Co. in its products.

Both Ting Hsin and Chang Guann are caught up in the latest food scandal that has been ongoing for nearly two months, having produced tainted beef tallow and lard products, respectively. Refuse oil was also discovered in the products.

After further investigation by the THB, IKEA staff acknowledged having poured two bags of expired milk into its soft serve machine at 12 and 2 p.m. on the day of the investigation. However, the staff stressed that they did not notice that the ingredients were expired.

The results of the probe will be released soon, as well as the punishment due, said the THB.

Case Transferred to New Taipei Health Bureau

After the discovery, the case was transferred to the New Taipei Health Bureau, as the headquarters of IKEA is located in New Taipei.

Whether or not IKEA will be fined or punished will ultimately be determined by the New Taipei Health Bureau.

Chang Ruei-lin, director secretary of the THB, stated yesterday that the case was transferred to the headquarters as the THB was concerned that other IKEA branches in Taiwan have been using the same expired products.

According to the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation, food or food additives are not to be sold if they are past their expiry date, and those who violate the said article will be fined between NT$60,000 (S$2,515) and NT$50 million, said the THB.

Around 150 Liters of Expired Soft Serve Consumed: THB

The THB estimated that as much as 150 liters of soft-serve ice cream produced on Oct. 17 were consumed by IKEA shoppers, as the furniture retailer may have attempted to exhaust its expired ingredients on weekends, when the number of shoppers is many times the usual crowd.

Soft-serve ice cream sales are approximately 60 to 80 liters per weekday, but may reach 150 liters on Saturdays and Sundays.

Consumers May Receive Refunds with Invoice: IKEA

IKEA announced yesterday that consumers who purchased its soft-serve ice cream on Oct. 17 may present their invoice to the Taichung branch in to receive refunds.

The incident was a one-time mistake and will not be repeated in the future, said the IKEA management, who also stressed that the company has always prioritized food safety.