Chang Chi chairman apologizes for oil quality

The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The chairman of a cooking oil manufacturer under investigation for fraud and food safety law violations apologized yesterday but stressed that the worse-than-claimed quality of the firm’s products is the result of production flaws, not deception.

Kao Cheng-li (高振利), head of Chang Chi Foodstuff Factory Co., apologized for “questionable product quality” caused by problematic production process monitoring but emphasized the company did not intentionally put lesser-quality oil in its premium products.

Prosecutors and the Changhua County Public Health Bureau raided Chang Chi on Wednesday and seized 2,490 liters of olive oil along with raw materials and accounting books while acting on accusations that the company’s olive oil products were not as pure as it had claimed. The raid came after other tip-offs, including one by Taipei health officials to their Changhua counterparts last year regarding tests which showed the company’s Tatung-brand “pure” olive oil was not 100-percent pure. The company explained at the time that the problem was due to production line contaminations. The authorities then fined Chang Chi NT$40,000 and asked the company to present an improvement plan. Copper chlorophyl, the coloring agent found in the contaminated oil, is edible and poses no health risks, Kao emphasized yesterday. The chemical, which is used in the production of sunflower oil, might have found its way into the pure olive oils because workers on the production lines failed to properly clean oil manufacturing machines in between production cycles, Kao said.

The company was accused of using coloring agents to disguise mixed oil as high quality pure oil.

Changhua Health authorities, however, said yesterday that copper chlorophyll can only be used as a food addictive in making bubble gum and chewing gum. The health officials also said that some of Chang Chi’s olive oil products “do not contain olive oil at all.” Several local governments have launched their own investigation into Chang Chi oil products. The Hsinchu County government yesterday ordered local retailers to shelve Chang Chi’s Tatung olive oil, while Taoyuan health officials searched retail outlets in the county but did not found any Chang Chi products.

Kao’s comment came after he was questioned by prosecutors on Wednesday and was prohibited from leaving the country after posting a NT$1 million bail.

Control Yuan members Cheng Jen-hung (程仁宏), Louis Chao (趙榮耀) and Yang Mei-ling (楊美鈴) yesterday said they have applied for an investigation of the government’s monitoring measures on cooking oil safety.