Taiwan government response to oil scandal questioned

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The government promised a tough approach Wednesday to those responsible for the spate of edible oil scandals.
Chang Chi Foodstuff Factory Company and other producers were under investigation for using banned chemicals in their oil products or for adulterating them with other types of oil not listed as ingredients. A total of 156 schools reportedly used cooking oil and other products from Chang Chi to prepare lunches for pupils and students, while the military was considering legal action if the oil was found to be damaging to health, reports said.
Vice Premier Mao Chi-kuo told a news conference Wednesday that the government would strengthen food safety at the Cabinet level and would issue severe punishment to violators.
The opposition Democratic Progressive Party said the government’s warnings were just words without backing up by action. Each time there was a food safety scandal, President Ma Ying-jeou would come out and emphasize his resolve to tackle the problem, but nothing would happen, the DPP said.
The Legislative Yuan’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee approved a motion Wednesday giving the government two weeks to check the origin of the cottonseed in all cottonseed products. Cotton contains traces of gossypol, a substance toxic to fertility. The motion was proposed by DPP lawmakers Chao Tien-lin and Lin Shu-fen.
Their colleague Tien Chiu-chin demanded that the Ministry of Health and Welfare should reclaim the illegal profits Chang Chi made on the sale of adulterated oil products. Vice Minister Hsu Ming-neng said the sum of the profits would be calculated by October 30.
The lawmaker said fines should be issued on the national level because of often close links between companies violating the laws and local governments.
The Changhua County Government said it was moving to make sure Chang Chi, which is based in the county, would be able to pay fines totaling up to NT$28.6 million (US$974,000) so far. Assets and bank accounts owned by the company and its chairman, Kao Chen-li, including 29 pieces of land and real estate have been frozen to prevent funds from disappearing, reports said.
The wave of bad publicity and demands for compensation from consumers who bought Chang Chi products was reportedly forcing company workers to go on unpaid leave beginning next week.
The company was also accused of having made political donations worth a total of NT$100,000 (US$3,400) to Changhua County Magistrate Cho Po-yuan.