Taiwanese food exports are finally free of all border controls in major target markets, with Malaysia being the latest to allow the former’s food products without plasticiser-free certification.
A statement from Malaysia’s Ministry of Economic Affairs said it would remove import controls on all of Taiwan’s food products, barring cookies and fruit drinks, beginning March 1 this year.
Malaysia had enforced export restrictions on Taiwan in late May last year when Taiwan's health department announced that it had found food additive suppliers to have illegally added DEHP in clouding agents and sold toxic agents to a number of food and beverage producers.
DEHP [a commonly used abbreviation for Bis (2-ethylhexyl)phthalate] is a plasticiser that has been found to cause hormonal malfunctions in children if consumed in large doses.
In the fallout, along with many other Asian and Western nations, Malaysia banned the import of some products like fruit drinks and syrups, while requiring safety certificates for others.
For now the Malaysian ministry said that it would continue to monitor imports of cookies and fruit drinks since it still has concerns over possible plasticiser contamination in such products, but will review the situation on March 16.
“We still have some concerns regarding these products. They are not banned from import, but we still need the certification for them. We will review the situation a month later,” a ministry spokesman told FoodNavigator-Asia.
Situation inching to ‘normal’
In August last year the Taiwanese government told representatives of more than 10 countries for the first time that it had brought the plasticiser contamination problem under complete control.
After the scandal first broke the Taiwanese government ruled safety certificates for the export of five types of food products—sports drinks, juices, teas, syrups and jams, and tablets and powders—potentially tainted with industrial plasticisers will be mandatory.
As it stands, most of the major export markets have lifted their restrictions on Taiwanese imports: China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore have all recanted their requirement that Taiwanese food exporters provide official plasticiser-free certification.
The ban was particularly damaging to Taiwan’s soft drinks industry, which saw neighbouring China alone prohibiting 900 such products, a spokesperson from Taiwan Beverage Industries Association told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“We are getting back to an almost similar situation with exports. We do not have a material estimate of losses suffered by industry but our exports dropped by almost 50% in this sector. The damage to reputation is unquantifiable,” he said.