Expired food items may have reached five-star hotels: official

Taipei, Dec. 13 (CNA) Some ingredients sold by a food importer that were long past their expiration date may have found their way into retail bakeries and even five-star hotels, a health official in New Taipei said Tuesday. Lin Chin-fu, deputy director of the city's Public Health Department, was responding to reports in the Apple Daily that food importer and distributor Bon Crop Trading Company had asked its employees to alter the expiration date of certain baking ingredients, including chocolate nine years past its expiration date. At least eight items, including black chocolate, fruit pulp and cake powder, were found to have their expiration dates altered. The company has sold food items to more than 600 commercial customers, including five-star hotels, the report also said. Lin said health officials inspected the company's warehouses located in Taishan District, New Taipei, in August and September. "We found 238 baking ingredients that had passed their legal expiration dates and sealed them for disposal. A total of 40 metric tons of the expired products were destroyed on Oct. 15 ," Lin said. The company has said it had imported excessive amounts of the baking ingredients and stored them in the warehouse after poor sales, but officials were skeptical of the claim after finding some of the items had expiration dates dating back to 2004. Lin said city health officials did not find evidence during the inspections that the company had actually sold the items, but he said it was reasonable to suspect that some of the expired ingredients had found their way to food processors and retail outlets. "Many bakeries and hotels have bought products from the company, and we'll continue to track the shipments," Lin said. Health officials again inspected the warehouses of the company Tuesday morning and found 10 barrels of expired applesauce and chocolate mocha bean. Lin said that according to the Act Governing Food Sanitation, the importer could be fined up to NT$150,000 for selling expired food items and up to NT$200,000 for altering the products' labels. But he acknowledged that the fines might simply be a slap on the wrist to the importer. "The bureau is now talking with prosecutors about ways to go after the rogue company on fraud charges, " Lin said. (By Chen Hsun-hsieh and Lilian Wu)