TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A Taiwan company on Thursday (Sept. 4) was ordered by the government to cease operations after it was found to have imported over 3 million non-medical grade masks from China in August and repurposed them for Taiwan's government real-name mask rationing system.
On Wednesday (Sept. 2), pharmacies in New Taipei reported that after receiving their latest shipment of what should have been Taiwan-made masks for the government's real-name rationing system, they also received masks with labeling in the simplified Chinese script used in China, indicating they were made by a company in Anhui Province. Chen Chao-yuan (陳昭元), chairman of the New Taipei City Pharmacists Association (NTPA), estimated that about one-third of the city's 1,100 pharmacies, more than 300, received the counterfeit masks.
After receiving reports from pharmacists, Chen said the association immediately contacted Taiwan's Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which carried out an investigation. Chen said the Chinese-made masks were found with the same batch of masks produced by the "National Face Mask Team" of private Taiwanese manufacturers.
On a Facebook post uploaded on Thursday, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) revealed the Taiwan company Carry Mask ((加利科技) in August imported 3.37 million masks made in China, relabeling and repackaging them as government-rationed and domestically-manufactured face mask supplies. Lin then posted a photo of the masks labeled by Carry as "Made in Taiwan," which she had purchased, and wondered if she had the "s*** luck" of having received a batch of bogus Chinese masks.
Chih Lan-hui (遲蘭慧), director of the the FDA's Division of Quality Compliance and Management was cited by CNA as saying that after carrying out an investigation, the agency found the masks were repackaged in Carry's factory in New Taipei City's Bali District. The factory supplies pharmacies in the New Taipei City districts of Sanchong, Xinzhuang, Luzhou, Wugu, Linkou, Taishan, Bali, Tamsui, Sanzhi, and Shimen, as well as some in Yilan County and Taipei City.
Chih said that Carry could be fined between NT$30,000 (US$1,000) and NT$2 million for violating the Pharmaceutical Affairs Act (藥事法). He added that consumers who purchased masks from pharmacies and clinics tied to the National Health Insurance (NHI) system can return them to those vendors between Sept. 4 and Sept. 11 for authentic medical masks.
Many of the masks have the words "Carry mask" printed on them to disguise their Chinese origin. In March of this year, customs caught out Carry importing a batch of masks from China labeled as "Made in Taiwan," reported Liberty Times.
The owner of Carry mask, Lin Ming-chin (林明進), spoke to the media on Thursday evening and said that he was no longer proud of being part of the National Face Mask Team because the government was putting too much pressure on local suppliers who, he suggested, have little choice but to outsource manufacturing to China. As for the masks made in Anhui, he admitted that he purchased the raw materials and commissioned a Chinese company to manufacture the masks.
However, he claimed the masks have a filtration percentage of 99.8 percent, which he claimed was much higher than most other companies. Lin apologized for causing consumer panic but insisted, "I'm really not a black heart factory!"
In response, Economics Minister Wang Mei-hua (王美花) was reported as saying on Friday (Sept. 4) that Lin is "rat excrement" and has harmed the honorable reputation created by the National Face Mask Team. Wang said, "We thought he had made a mistake, but he pointed to others and blamed this and that."