Taiwan food manufacturer indicted for adding carcinogen

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Owners of Qian Hsin Enterprise, a Tainan-based emulsifiers producer, were indicted by prosecutors on charges of fraud and violations against the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation yesterday for adding chemical compounds harmful to the human body.

The Changhua District Prosecutors Office is seeking 20-year and 18-year prison terms for father and son, Lu Tian-rong and Lu Jia-qian, in addition to a NT$20 million (S$834,000) fine. Prosecutors also request that they return illegal gains of NT$25.2 million.

The two were accused of adding industrial dye dimethyl yellow and diethyl yellow, as well as sulfuric acid and surfactant, which are forbidden, into emulsifiers between 2008 and 2014.

The ingredient dimethyl yellow, which is considered a carcinogen, was added by the suspects to make food products such as tofu skin look nicer and more tasty.

Emulsifiers are used in the production for a variety of bean products, such as bean curds and soy milk.

The latest food scandal is believed to have wide ramifications in the food industry.

A Disregard for Public Health

The accused are well aware that bean products are widely consumed by the public as well as overseas consumers.

Nevertheless, they added carcinogens to emulsifiers to reap higher profits, disregarding food regulations and the public's health, prosecutors said.

The tainted emulsifiers have been used by reputable food companies, which are expected to suffer great monetary losses and damage to their brand image because of the incident, said lead prosecutor Huang Zhi-yong.

Since the suspects have not been straightforward during interrogation, and have denied any wrongdoing, prosecutors have sought heavier penalties.

The scandal surfaced after Te Chang Food's pepper-flavored dried tofu was found to contain dimethyl yellow by the Center for Food Safety in Hong Kong.

The Food and Drug Administration later traced the harmful chemical compound to Qian Hsin Enterprise.

Prosecutors Decide Not to Charge Tripod King

In another food scandal, the Taipei District Prosecutors Office announced yesterday that it will not charge Tripod King, a very well-known spicy hotpot restaurant in Taiwan.

According to a Next Magazine's report, Tripod King uses flavor enhancer MSG, bone powders and dozens of other food powders to prepare its base soup, instead of Chinese herbs, fruits and vegetables as claimed by the restaurant.

While Next Magazine believes that the restaurant's false claim constitutes fraud, prosecutors consider it disingenuous advertisement, and decided not to charge Tripod King founder Chen Shu-ming.

Prosecutors explained that the restaurant has indeed cooked its base soup with Chinese herbs, fruits and vegetables. Although Tripod King has used artificial flavours, it never claimed that its ingredients are 100 per cent natural, said prosecutors.