TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The New Taipei City Department of Health reacted to a tip on Wednesday (Feb. 7) that a red chili pepper powder on the market was processed with the industrial dye, Sudan III, which is not safe for human consumption, per CNA.
City health officials went to the importer's warehouse and collected samples, which were later sent to an independent lab for testing. Sudan III is a carcinogenic dye used industrially to color textiles, plastics, and shoe leather. In recent years, it has appeared in food products, especially chili powder, despite adverse health effects such as hyperactivity and loss of concentration.
As early as 2003, the EU implemented mandatory testing of Sudan III and associated industrial dyes, generally discouraging their uses and setting very low permissible limits. However, the use of such dyes continues in underdeveloped regions of Asia and Africa.
The source of the tainted chili powder has been traced to a raw material dealer in New Taipei City. While the importer furnished a testing report that showed no Sudan III was detected, health officials collected additional samples for independent testing.
The health department issued a press release saying it had received a notice from the Yunlin County Public Health Bureau that a popular “four-in-one seasoning pack" manufactured at a Douliu Factory with an expiration date of December 12, 2025, was found to contain traces of Sudan III.
Four-in-one seasoning pack at the center of food safety investigation. (Yunlin County Government photo)
The health department's Drug Division Chief Yang Shu-chin (楊舒秦) said Sudan III is not approved for use in food processing in Taiwan. Yang said test results will be available after the Lunar New Year.
If the chili powder contains Sudan III, the importer may be punished for violating the Food Safety and Hygiene Act, with a potential sentence of seven years and fines upwards of NT$80 million (US$2.5 million).
Yunlin County Public Health Bureau has already informed sales channels such as PX Mart about the suspected chili powder. It encouraged supermarkets to take such products off the shelves to better protect consumers.