The government has ordered the recall of all 216 pharmaceutical products made by MPL Holdings because the expiry date extended beyond the shelf life. The disclosure by the Health Department's chief pharmacist, Anthony Chan Wing-kin, came a day after reports that the local firm began withdrawing its products last month. Mr Chan said the department had taken documents from the factory in Tsing Yi and would refer the case to the police if any criminal elements were found. A department spokesman criticised MPL for withdrawing the products before its investigation was complete, saying it could have erased evidence. Asked why the public had not been notified when the irregularity was discovered on February 25, Mr Chan said: 'We have just finished our investigation today and we are now immediately announcing the results.' While the labels said their shelf life was three years, laboratory tests showed only two years. 'We must thoroughly investigate the problem before making an announcement,' he said. 'An exception would be made if the products were high-risk drugs or used to treat severe illnesses. But in this case, most of the drugs are only vitamins, minerals, cough syrup, and cold and flu pills.' He also noted that MPL - like Tai Po drug firm Europharm, which produced the tainted gout pill allopurinol - had received the 'good manufacturing practice' accreditation. The MPL factory passed an inspection in January. MPL has set up a hotline, 2781 6320. A spokesman said the company would not comment on the case.