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Taiwan claims DEHP problem under control

By Ankush Chibber, 16-Aug-2011

Related topics: Policy, Food safety, Beverages

Taiwan has told countries that had placed a ban on the import of its food products that it has managed to gain control of the DEHP food contamination problem from earlier this year.

The problem began in May this year when Taiwan's health department announced that it had found food additive supplier Yu Shen Chemical Co. 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 plasticizer that has been found to cause hormonal malfunctions in children if consumed in large doses.

The resulting food scare has ravaged the island nation’s beverage and food industry since then, with the toxic substance being found in many products sold locally and overseas. As a result, countries across the world began banning the import of food and beverage products from Taiwan.

The U.S. and Canada carried out emergency food safety inspections, while Mainland China, Malaysia and the Philippines banned the import of relevant products, and Hong Kong and South Korea required safety certificates, according to the Bureau of Foreign Trade.

In the first week of this month though, the Taiwanese government told representatives of over 10 countries that it had brought the plasticizer contamination problem under complete control.

The representatives at the meeting belonged to Vietnam, Malaysia, the United States, New Zealand, Australia, Britain, Brazil, Japan, South Africa and Canada, according to a statement from the health department.

The representatives were informed that all plasticizer-tainted items had been pulled off store shelves, and that only a few items were retained for further testing purposes.

In addition, as of August 1, the temporary requirement that companies exporting five categories of food and beverage should produce certificates showing their products were plasticizer-free was lifted to help them resume their exports.

Previously, on June 2, the Taiwanese government had ruled that 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 plasticizers will be mandatory.