The Taiwanese food contamination scare has worsened with health authorities seizing more products today, and global food authorities now on alert for tainted products entering into their borders.
Today’s seizures involved a food additive manufacturer illegally adding di-isononyl phthalate (DINP) into its cloudy agents. This follows the recent discovery of the more harmful chemical di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) in the cloudy agents used in many of Taiwan’s sports drinks, jam, yoghurt, fruit juice and dietary supplements.
Many manufacturers add cloudy agents to mix immiscible contents together, much like an emulsifier. Cloudy agents are usually made from the more expensive palm oil.
So it appears that adding DEHP into cloudy agents not only cuts costs, but it reportedly also produces an aesthetically pleasing white colour, and extends the shelf life of the cloudy agent by up to six months.
DEHP and DINP are plasticiers used to make plastics more flexible and durable. Prolonged consumption of both chemicals may affect the liver and kidney, and may lead to cancer.
Yu Shen Chemical Co. (昱伸香料有限公司), Taiwan’s largest food additive supplier, was found to have been adding DEHP into its cloudy agent. 167 food ingredient suppliers are affected, including:
- Possmei Corp – recalled a passionfruit juice, mango juice and lychee juice. The company also supplies bubble milk tea products to over 20 countries. Possmei’s president says contamination of its tapioca balls is unlikely but a US supplier has stopped importing tapioca balls;
- Taiwan Sugar Co. – recalled its Turmeric Oyster Shell supplement;
- HeySong Corp. – recalled its FruitHouse probiotic powder and three brands of dietary supplements;
- Cerebos Pacific Ltd – recalled a calcium supplement and a multivitamin tablet for children.
Taiwanese authorities say that the affected products may be selling in Hong Kong, China, United States, the Philippines, Vietnam and numerous other countries. China has already begun recalling products.
DEHP affected products
According to the Taiwanese Department of Health, products that have been tested and contain unacceptable levels of DEHP include:
- 悅氏運動飲料 (Dong Nung 1000 Sports Drink)
- 動力運動飲品 (Speed Sports Drinks)
- Taiwan yes 運動速燃飲料
- SunKist粒粒檸檬果汁飲料 (Sunkist bottled drinks)
What to look out for
Cloudy agents may be present in thick or pasty substances, like juice concentrates, ice products, jelly, almond tofu or other products and drinks that use added fragrances.
Whilst it has not been directly linked, it may be worth staying off your bubble tea for the moment, as there is the potential for DEHP to be in ingredients used to make your bubble tea. This general principle applies for all Taiwanese products until the situation stabilises.
Read this blog post of 9 June 2011 for the latest on this incident.
Read this blog post on how Chatime became embroiled in this crisis with their bubble teas.