Oil scandal accounts to be settled next week: Taiwan premier

TAIPEI - Premier Jiang Yi-huah yesterday said the issue of who should be held accountable over the tainted oil scandal will be taken care of next week.

It has been almost four weeks since an unlicensed oil manufacturer in Pingtung was discovered to be selling recycled waste oil to local companies. Many lawmakers urged the executive branch to look into accountability issues.

In response, during an interpellation session yesterday at the Legislature, Jiang said that the oil scare occurred because relevant governmental agencies did not spot the problems in time.

"The Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) system and the governmental agency responsible for the nation's waste management ... they should bear the responsibility," Jiang said.

The premier said that when he held the cross-ministry meetings over the oil scare, he told the ministries that the reason similar food safety incidents keep happening is that the relevant agencies are slow to respond.

Jiang said the government is aiming to reassure the public and ensure that no tainted food products are on shelves as soon as possible, adding that it would take one to two weeks to achieve the stated aims. He went on to say that the government has proposed eight measures to prevent another food safety incident occurring again.

Kuomintang (KMT) lawmaker Huang Chao-shun asked Jiang if he will handle the accountability issue next week. Jiang said "yes."

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker Chen Chi-mai said that Chang Guann Co. - the oil manufacturer at the centre of the recent oil scare - had imported a total of 300 tons of lard oil from Hong Kong between 2011 and 2014. Cheng I Food Co., on the other hand, had imported a total of 730 tons of lard oil from Hong Kong during the same period of time, Chen said. "Given the fact that there is no room for Hong Kong to raise pigs, I wonder where exactly does the lard oil come from?" Chen asked.

In response, Jiang said the government is looking into the origins of Cheng I's lard oil imports, noting that it has contacted Hong Kong authorities over the issue.

"They have agreed for us to dispatch officials to Hong Kong for further investigation," Jiang said.

The premier said he also requested that the executive branch investigate other oil importers to see whether any other companies have forged import documents, as Chang Guann did.

Chen asked Jiang if the government will remove Cheng I's oil products from shelves as a precautionary measure. The premier responded by saying that according to the law, the MHW cannot remove products before the government confirms that Cheng I's products are indeed tainted.