Chen Che-hsiung from Taiwanese additive manufacturer, Pin Han Perfumery, was sentenced to fraud and violation of the Food Sanitation Act along with his wife.
Chen was sentenced for adding toxic, industrial-use plasticisers to clouding agents between August 2005 and May 2011 to cut costs and allegedly selling these additives to seven local food and beverage manufacturers.
Prosecutors indicted the owner and his wife in June 2011, along with their two sons – accused of assisting in the production of the tainted clouding agents and business involvement. It was reported that the two sons were found innocent due to lack of evidence.
The initial sentence was passed at a district court in October 2011, the High Court upheld this ruling. The case can still be appealed.
These plasticiser-tainted additives triggered a damaging food contamination scare across Taiwan that saw Asian and global markets close their doors to Taiwanese products like beverages and syrups.
It was in May 2011 that contaminated products were found in Taiwan.
Ripple-effect of the scandal
Clouding agent is most commonly used in yoghurt powder mix, juices, sports drinks and other beverages as well as fruit jelly.
In the wake of the scandal, the Taiwanese government ruled safety certificates would be mandatory 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.
Asian countries scrambled to cease Taiwan imports, including China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore, all of which have now lifted their import restrictions. Malaysia was the latest to lift restrictions, doing so in February 2012.
A spokesperson from Taiwan Beverage Industries Association told FoodNavigator-Asia that the bans were particularly damaging to the country’s soft drinks industry, with China alone prohibiting 900 such products.
“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.