Taiwan oil scandal: Singapore retailers reassure customers 'Snacks are safe'

SINGAPORE - A "gutter oil" scandal in Taiwan and Hong Kong has had repercussions for Singapore traders selling pineapple cakes and mooncakes, who have had to reassure customers that products imported from the two countries are safe.

Some have listed the snacks' ingredients publicly and even given out "food safety declarations" to vouch that they do not contain illegally recycled oil.

One of them is Frosts Food & Beverage, which distributes mooncakes from Maxim's Cakes, one of the brands investigated by the Hong Kong authorities.

On Wednesday, Frosts managing director Julie Haw clarified that Maxim's Cakes products have passed Hong Kong government tests.

In any case, its mooncakes are made without lard and are safe to eat, she added.

"After seeing the public declarations that we sent out, our customers were satisfied that our mooncakes have absolutely no lard in them at all," she said.

Since the news broke on Sept 1, several food items were taken off shelves in Hong Kong and Taiwan due to fears they contained lard mixed with illegally recycled cooking oil from Taiwan - including that pumped from grease traps collecting waste in sewers.

Some customers here have since raised concerns.

"Two or three called up with questions, but they stopped worrying after we clarified that we use only Australian and New Zealand butter in our snacks, not oil," said Ms Erica Wang, director of Sweet Musings, which sells sweets and pastries from Taiwan.

It put a notice on its Facebook page to say that its snacks contained no traces of tainted lard.

Similarly, Taiwanese food retailer SunnyHills' outlet in Singapore put a notice on its website to assure customers that its pineapple cakes contain butter and not lard.

Stores said that, in general, sales have not been affected as their notices and declarations have been effective in easing customers' worries.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority confirmed that food items imported from the two territories that are sold here are safe for consumption.

It has stepped up surveillance of processed food from Taiwan and Hong Kong, and is monitoring the situation closely.

Products removed for checking by the Hong Kong authorities included mooncakes, pineapple buns, sauces and noodle dishes.

Consumers have not been put off buying the snacks but vowed to take more care.

Student Tan Wei Qing, 21, often buys Taiwanese-brand pineapple cakes from FairPrice supermarket.

She said: "I wouldn't...stop buying Taiwanese snacks altogether, but when it comes to snacks linked to companies affected by the scandal, I won't buy them."


This article was first published on September 13, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.