Tainted steaks found in numerous Taiwanese restaurants: Authority

TAIPEI, Taiwan - The Taichung Health Bureau (THB) announced yesterday that steaks produced by Taipei-based Shusen Corp. that contain tainted beef tallow have seeped into a huge subset of the Taiwanese restaurant industry, affecting renowned franchises and even Taipei's historic Grand Hotel.

Health Board Secretary Chang Jui-lin said that the number of Taichung restaurants affected exceeds the reported eight, and investigators will release more numbers this afternoon.

According to the THB's calculations, there are 122 restaurants using Shusen's tainted products, including franchise stores and street vendors. The THB requested that Shusen products be taken off Taipei shelves by midnight yesterday. If restaurants are caught still using the products, a fine between NT$30,000 (S$1,255) to NT$3 million will be issued.

Shusen, which purchased the tainted powdered beef tallow from Gen Asia Biotech Co. (GAB), alerted officials last week and issued a precautionary recall.

Last year, Shusen purchased 2,955 kg of GAB's beef tallow and used 2,866.14 kg of it to make their standard line of steaks. On Oct. 24, Shusen returned 88.86 kg of unused powdered tallow to GAB.

Taipei City Government's spokesman Chang Chi-chang said that they have released three out of the 122 effected Taipei businesses' names. Out of the 122 stores, there are 30 stores with a business registration. Since there are 92 remaining businesses not registered, Taipei City will hold off on releasing the full list of stores to avoid causing panic in the night market business.

The prestigious Grand Hotel was listed as a restaurant using Shusen steaks. The Grand Hotel issued a press release last night and said that, as a precaution, they returned all Shusen beef short ribs on Oct. 25. The Grand Hotel also said that they only stock ingredients that are government approved and regulated for quality. According to the hotel, they only purchased Shusen beef short ribs in the first and third season of this year.

The Hsinchu Health Bureau (HHB) immediately paid a visit to all the businesses that Shusen has supplied in Hsinchu after finding out that the original source of the tainted products was Ting Hsin. The HHB were adamant about the recall of steaks, both on the production line and those that were already boxed for shipment.

The HHB's secretary Yen Tung-cheng said that his office has sealed 114 boxes of Shusen steaks and 78 boxes of raw ingredients. Yen also said that his office has enforced a recall for the product.

Not only steak restaurants sell Shusen's products, with many hot pot restaurants also using the same meat by shaving the beef into thin slices. Investigators from the THB carried out an operation yesterday afternoon in which they visited affected restaurants and asked businesses to stop using Shusen meat.

The tainted beef was not sold to supermarkets and consumers were not able to buy it directly, reports said.

Consumer Protection Office Director Chen Hsin-cheng said that customers who dined at restaurants using Shusen products from May 1 to Oct. 25 can request a refund with proof of payment.