Taiwan’s I-Mei Foods buys radish leaves to produce lutein

The policy will help farmers' incomes and reduce waste

I-Mei Foods is buying radish leaves to produce lutein.

I-Mei Foods is buying radish leaves to produce lutein. (By Taiwan News)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – When I-Mei Foods Co. (義美食品) CEO Luis Ko (高志明) promised to buy 100 tons of radish leaves to help struggling farmers, questions were raised about the use of such product, but this week, the businessman revealed his company would extract lutein from the green leaves.

The policy was directed at buying vegetables which had not been treated with pesticides, and at paying farmers a fair price for their produce, as they were struggling with low incomes and a failure to attract younger people into the profession.

More than a million people in Taiwan were taking lutein in one form or another, but most was imported, Ko said. Lutein is a carotenoid or natural colorant found in dark green vegetables which can help protect eyesight.

In addition, most of the lutein on the market at present has been extracted using the chemical Hexane method, but I-Mei will avoid this practice and use the more natural CO2 method, Ko said.

If the company had not stepped in, the leaves might have ended up on the garbage heap, the I-Mei CEO said, regretting the fact that so much products of Taiwanese agriculture were wasted instead of being used to improve living standards for farmers.

The company is also expanding its cooperation with farmers who promise not to use pesticides, with more than a dozen in Yunlin, Kaohsiung, Taichung and Miaoli already having entered the program, and dozens more waiting to join, Ko said.