The Kaohsiung District Court ruled that the cooking oil manufacturer had harmed the health of 5,314 teachers and pupils in a civil case brought by the central government’s Consumer Protection Committee on behalf of 96 schools. Appeals were still possible against the verdict, which came in far lower than demanded by the committee..
The issue found its origin in a series of major adulterated oil scandals which broke in 2014. Several producers, including Ting Hsin affiliates, were accused of having used low-quality products, sometimes even waste oil and oil reserved for industrial oil, to adulterate cooking oil destined for human consumption.
The court said Wednesday that though no evidence had been provided that teachers or pupils suffered health problems as a result of consuming Cheng I oil products, it was still clear that the company had damaged the “corporeal and health rights” of the consumers.
The link between the company’s products and the health of the consumers was difficult to show, but the interests of the consumers still needed to be served, according to the court decision.
The judges also blamed negligence on the part of Cheng I, which had failed to identify unusable lard oil raw materials.
The total sum of the compensation payment was calculated as NT$2,000 (US$61) per person in “spiritual damages” and NT$1,000 (US$31) per person in fines for the company.
However, the Consumer Protection Committee had demanded NT$90,000 (US$2,775) per person for a total of more than NT$400 million (US$12.3 million), reports said. The request was rejected because some of the plaintiffs were unable to prove they had used Cheng I oil products, the court said.
In its reaction to the verdict, the company said it “respected consumers’ rights to seek compensation” but would study the court document before deciding whether or not to file an appeal. Cheng I pointed out that it had been found not guilty in the criminal procedure of a similar case.