Shelves sit empty at a supermarket in Taipei on Tuesday after Taiwan authorities asked for food and drink contaminated with an illegal additive to be recalled. [Photo / China Daily]
BEIJING - The Chinese mainland has banned its restaurants from selling or using beverages, food products and food additives from 10 producers in Taiwan that are suspected to have been tainted with a cancer-causing plastic additive.
The State Food and Drug Administration issued an urgent notice on Thursday, ordering all restaurants not to purchase or use food and food additives containing plasticizers.
A food processing company in Guangdong province was found on Tuesday to have imported ingredients from Taiwan that included the illegal additive DEHP, according to the Guangdong food safety authority.
The authority announced on Wednesday that Yuyan Food Company in Dongguan had brought the illegal items into the country before reselling some to businesses in other cities in the province, including Guangzhou and Jiangmen.
Officers have detained suspects from the company and are trying to track down consignments of illegal additives that have been resold, so they can be recalled.
The investigation into the use of illegal additives, which was initiated by the provincial government, was started in the aftermath of a high-profile scandal involving Taiwan drinks that contain DEHP, a type of plasticizer. The additive is used to make plastic soft and pliable and can affect hormone balances in young people. It is illegal to put DEHP in any food product.
Guangdong residents are being encouraged to report to the authorities any illegal products still being sold.
Instant noodles sold in Guangzhou have also been found to contain DEHP and DBP - another type of plasticizer - according to the research of Liu Chunhong, a food expert at South China Agricultural University. The chemicals had contaminated the noodles from the plastic packages that contained the instant noodles.
The Food Safety Commission of the State Council has also required other places nationwide to carry out similar inspections to ensure food safety.
Blacklisted beverages produced by problematic Taiwan enterprises were found in supermarkets in Shanghai and Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu province. Local food safety authorities have ordered them to be pulled from the shelves.
In reaction to public concern, the Ministry of Health issued an emergency notice on Wednesday, adding DEHP to the list of inedible materials that are likely to be illegally added to food. A hotline was also set up so that consumers can call 12320 to ask about the dangers posed by DEHP.
On Tuesday, the top quality watchdog issued a temporary ban on importing food and drink from Taiwan enterprises that have been identified as producing food contaminated by DEHP.
The ban listed 10 enterprises as problematic, and sports drinks, juices, tea drinks, fruit jams, syrups, tablets, powders and food additives produced by these 10 enterprises will be banned from entering the mainland market.
On May 23, Taiwan's health authorities announced that DEHP had been found in some bottled beverages and dairy products, and with an investigation ongoing, they found that more than 200 enterprises had been implicated and 500 kinds of products contaminated.
On Thursday Taiwan authorities approved a draft bill that will lead to a 33-fold increase in the maximum fine for lacing food items with banned chemicals as the island battles its worst food scare in decades.
The change to the food sanitation law, which now awaits the legislature's final approval, also makes it possible to sentence violators to up to five years in jail, compared with three years now.
It allows a fine of up to NT$10 million ($345,000) for violators, up from NT$300,000 before, Taiwan's "cabinet" said in a statement.
The bill is expected to be submitted to the island's legislature and approved before it adjourns on June 14.