The head of a Taiwanese company at the centre of a widening food safety scandal has been detained for selling hundreds of tonnes of “gutter oil” that caused mass product recalls, authorities said Saturday.
Yeh Wen-hsiang, chairman of Chang Guann Co, was taken into custody early Saturday on suspicion of fraud, officials said, deeming him a flight risk and fearing he could collude with other suspects or destroy evidence.
Investigators found that in the six months from February, Chang Guann had purchased 243 tonnes of tainted oil – collected from cookers, fryers and grease traps – from an unlicensed factory and mixed it with lard oil for sales to its customers islandwide. A total of 782 tonnes of such oils had been produced.
Chang Guann was already fined 50 million Taiwanese dollars (US$1.67 million, MOP13.36 million) by the authorities for illegally selling poor-quality lard oil – a clear oil pressed from pig fat.
Hundreds of tonnes of mooncakes – traditionally served at this time of year – along with pineapple cakes, bread, instant noodles as well as steamed buns and dumplings have been removed from shelves in Taiwan since the case surfaced last week.
More than 1,000 restaurants, bakeries and food plants had used the tainted oil, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Many have apologised to customers for having unknowingly used tainted oil.