TAIPEI - Japan did not import any products made with the “gutter oil” raising growing concern about food safety in Taiwan, the island’s health authorities said Friday.
Food and Drug Administration Deputy Director-General Chiang Yu-mei said 14 food items made with so-called gutter oil have been exported to the United States, France, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Vietnam, Singapore, Hong Kong and China.
Gutter oil is a potentially harmful mixture of waste oil recycled from sewer drains, restaurant fryers and slaughterhouse by-products.
At the center of the scandal, which has affected at least 1,000 local manufacturers, is local lard supplier Chang Guann Co. It was fined NT$50 million ($1.6 million) for selling a product made of animal feed oil and gutter oil as pork fat oil.
The company was found to have purchased and processed gutter oil from an illegal factory in southern Taiwan and imported oil from Hong Kong and Japan.
While investigators suspect the Hong Kong company from which Chang Guann imported pork fat oil falsified documents and changed the export invoice from animal feed oil to pork fat oil, documents provided by Japanese suppliers appeared to be genuine and the Japanese government did not notify Taiwanese authorities of any safety problems involving the materials, Chiang told Kyodo News.
Hong Kong police on Friday arrested two men, 59 and 64, believed to be the exporters who reportedly sold inedible lard as food oil to Chang Guann and a notary public, accusing him of “conspiring to defraud” and “forgery.”
Critics charged Chang Guann had the courage to do business in this manner because it has two powerful Japanese investors behind it.
The two Japanese investors, Tsukishima Foods Industry Co. and Mitsui & Co., together account for about 35 percent of the company’s stake, according to the website of the Taiwan Stock Exchange.