Toxic food additive maker receives 13-year prison sentence: Taiwan

TAIPEI - The Taiwan High Court sentenced the owner of a food additive manufacturing company Tuesday to a jail term of 13 years for mixing toxic plasticizers into clouding agents and selling them to downstream food and beverage producers.

The court handed down the sentence for Chen Che-hsiung of the New Taipei City-based Pin Han Perfumery Co. for fraud and violation of the Food Sanitation Act. It also sentenced Chen's wife, Wang Fen, to an 11-year jail term on the same charges.

Both the defendants showed up at the court for the rulings, where Chen's lawyer asked the court to suspend the jail term and grant bail, as Chen is suffering from cancer.

Pin Han was accused of adding toxic plasticizers to clouding agents between August 2005 and May 2011 to cut costs.

The company is also alleged to have sold the additive to seven local food and soft drink manufacturers, including widely renowned Uni-President Enterprise Corp. until the industrial-use plasticizers were detected in a wide range of processed food products and beverages late last April, exposing the largest food contamination scandal in Taiwan's history.

Clouding agents are commonly used in fruit jelly, yogurt powder mix, juices, sports drinks and other beverages to keep emulsions well dispersed.

Prosecutors indicted Chen and his wife last June, as well as Chen's eldest son Chen Wei-cheng, who was accused of assisting in the production of the substandard clouding agents, and youngest son Chen Wei-chuan, the company's nominal head.

The couple was found guilty at the district court and was sentenced to terms of 13 years and 10 years, respectively. Their two sons were found innocent due to lack of evidence, but the Pin Han company was slapped with a fine of NT$2.5 million (S$109,000) for violating the Food Sanitation Act.

The high court maintained the ruling, but doubled the fine on Pin Han. The case can still be appealed.