Taiwan stops imports of HK lard oil

TAIPEI - Imports of edible lard oil products from Hong Kong will now be suspended with immediate effect, Vice Minister of Health and Welfare Shiu Ming-neng said yesterday.

Shiu's remark came after a Hong Kong company was discovered to have exported animal feed-grade oil to domestic edible oil company Chang Guann Co. - the firm that has been at the centre of the recent tainted cooking oil scandal.

During a press conference at the Executive Yuan, Shiu said the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW) will not only suspend the import of lard oil products from Hong Kong, but it will also conduct batch-to-batch border inspections on all edible oil products imported from mainland China, Macau and Hong Kong.

The vice minister went on to say that as the questionable lard oil products from Hong Kong were certified by a private examination centre in Hong Kong, the MHW will demand that importers present test reports of their edible oil products certified by the Chinese government, Macanese government or Hong Kong government in the future.

According to an investigation by Hong Kong's Center for Food Safety, Hong Kong trading company Globalway Corp. has exported animal feed oil to Chang Guann, but described it as oil for human consumption on its import documents, the Central News Agency reported yesterday.

Commenting on the alleged forged documents, Shiu said as far as he knows, Taiwan's prosecutors are investigating whether Chang Guann has also cooperated with the Hong Kong firm in the forgeries.

Citing the preliminary investigation by Hong Kong authorities, Shiu said there is a possibility that the examination results in Hong Kong could not tell if the questionable lard oil products were edible oil or industrial oil.

"But we still suspect that the lard oil products are made of industrial oil," he said. As soon as the MHW has any additional information, it will update the public right away, he added.

Taiwan's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) discovered that since 2008, Chang Guann has imported 56 shipments totaling 2,385 tons of pork lard from Hong Kong, including 87 tons from Globalway between March and May this year.

Chang Guann Chairman Yeh Wen-hsiang told a press conference that his company had requested that the Hong Kong supplier provide certification proving that the lard oil products were edible.

Premier Jiang Yi-huah yesterday requested that the Mainland Affairs Council work with the Ministry of Justice, the MHW and the Economics Ministry on the questionable lard oil products from Hong Kong, Cabinet spokesman Sun Lih-chyun said.

The premier requested the said ministries to jointly investigate the incident with Hong Kong authorities and prevent a similar incident from happening again, Sun said.