Taiwan tells drug firms to check products

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 June, 2011, 12:00am


Beleaguered Taiwanese authorities have ordered that all local pharmaceutical manufacturers examine their products within three days, as the island's worst food scandal continues to snowball.

The order came after several prescription drugs from Taiwan were removed from shelves and banned by Hong Kong and Macau for reportedly containing toxic plasticisers.

Some Taiwanese pharmaceutical manufacturers were reported to have exported medicine to Hong Kong that tested positive for the cancer-causing chemical plasticiser DEHP.

'We have demanded the Taiwan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers' Association notify more than 160 of its member companies to check if their raw materials include clouding agents supplied by Yu Shen Chemical Co and Pin Han Perfumery Co,' Kang Jaw-jou, director-general of the Taiwanese Department of Health's Food and Drug Administration, said yesterday.

To cut costs, Yu Shen and Pin Han used DEHP - particularly harmful to the reproductive system of young people because it affects hormone balance - as a clouding agent, instead of using natural palm oil. They were reported to have sold the emulsifier, which can improve the flavour, appearance and shelf life of products to many downstream food and pharmaceutical makers, for years.

The scandal came to light after an assistant drug inspector accidentally found the illegal additive while examining a health food product in March and reported the case, It took the authorities more than a month to find that the illegal additive was commonly used in at least three types of drinks in Taiwan, prompting them to ban the sales of five categories of products from May 23. They ordered an unprecedented inspection across the island of all food and pharmaceutical products using clouding agents.

So far 855 products produced by 252 firms have been found to have been tainted, according to Taiwan's health department.