Pingtung County leadership apologizes over recycled oil

By Joy Chang, The China Post with CNA

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Pingtung County Magistrate Tsao Chi-hung (曹啟鴻) apologized yesterday over an ongoing food safety scare that originated in part with an unlicensed factory in his county. Tsao, bowing in apology at the press conference, also said that he had accepted the resignations tendered by five high-ranking officials in the county government, including the heads of the environmental protection and public health bureaus. Their resignations will take effect on Nov. 1.

Tsao stated that the central government should also take some responsibility. Tsao called upon the government to deal with the loopholes in the laws governing edible oil and food security. For instance, some producers procured ingredients claiming that they were producing oil for animal feed. However, they were actually using these ingredients to produce oil for human consumption.

The food scandal erupted on Sept. 4 after it was found that among the ingredients used by Kaohsiung-based Chang Guann Co. in its edible oils was recycled oil made from kitchen waste and grease from leather processing plants.

That waste was being collected and processed by an unlicensed factory in Pingtung County.

Residents filed several complaints against the factory because of its putrid smell and pollution of the surrounding areas, but Pingtung County authorities failed to take action against it despite several visits to the facility in the past four years.

Tsao also recommended that inspectors from the Pintung County Government Environmental Protection Bureau learn from the farmer who collected evidence about the factory for two years. However, Tsao said that since there are only ten inspectors, the system is at fault rather than the inspectors.

Chien Tai-lan (簡太郎), the Kuomintang (KMT) candidate in the upcoming Pingtung magistrate election, said that Tsao’s apology came a little too late. The Pingtung County chapter of the KMT agreed with Chien and said that Tsao’s late apology would not reduce the damage done to the people of Pingtung through the oil scandal. Furthermore, Chien stated that if elected he would hold regular cross-department food security conferences to propose solutions to food security issues.

The New Party councilor candidates held a press conference outside the Control Yuan yesterday morning. They called on the Control Yuan to impeach Tsao, who they claimed should be held responsible for the oil scandal.

Consumers have been gripped by fear and anger since it was discovered that more than 1,000 food makers, including restaurants and bakeries, had been using the questionable oil supplied by Chang Guann.