Monday, November 04, 2013

The Uses of Scandal: Edible oils

Model airplane fliers in southern Taichung city.

“Coincidence was a concept he did not entirely trust. As someone who had spent his life exploring the hidden interconnectivity of disparate emblems and ideologies, Langdon viewed the world as a web of profoundly intertwined histories and events. The connections may be invisible, he often preached to his symbology classes at Harvard, but they are always there, buried just beneath the surface.”

Wouldn't ya know it? Just as (1) the President's pet prosecutor is facing indictment for leaking secrets in a prosecution case to the President and (2) the President is trying to shove a major services agreement through the legislature and (3) the President is trying to wipe egg off his face after attempting but failing to destroy a political rival, a major food scandal breaks out. What a break for the President, eh?

FocusTaiwan presents the raw data:
Ting Hsin Oil and Fat Industrial Co., a major edible oil supplier and subsidiary of the Ting Hsin International Group, was ordered Sunday to recall 21 of its oil products that used adulterated ingredients.

The Pingtung County Public Health Bureau ordered Ting Hsin Oil & Fat to recall 21 of its products that contained adulterated oils from Chang Chi Foodstuff Factory Co., the company at the heart of an edible oil scandal that has shaken Taiwan.

The products were sold under the brand of Wei Chuan Foods Corp., another subsidiary of the Ting Hsin Group and one of Taiwan's oldest food companies. All Wei Chuan-brand edible oils are produced by the Ting Hsin unit in Pingtung.

Ting Hsin Oil and Fat said Chang Chi oils were also used in its handmade soaps and lighting oils, according to a list of products containing Chang Chi oils provided by the company.

The Pingtung Public Health Bureau will fine Ting Hsin Oil and Fat between NT$30,000 (US$1,020) and NT$3 million because the Pingtung County-based oil supplier failed to provide the list immediately when Pingtung health officials visited it on Oct. 27-28.

The company did admit at the time that it had purchased olive oils and grapeseed oils from Chang Chi in July and September, and health officials seized more than 200 192-kilogram barrels of those oils Ting Hsin Oil and Fat still had in stock.
Wei Chuan is a major major brand in Taiwan, with a strong reputation for quality. This is going to hurt. There are so many threads here that this scandal touches on: food security (all of Taiwan's cooking oils are imported), food regulation (what is that?), corporate impunity (punishment? What punishment?), corporate corruption (of course it is killing its customers, it's a large corporation, isn't it?), and food scandals as background noise (going back a long way -- Yu-cheng mass poisoning incident). Food scandals are a way of life here.

But it's always more fun to play the "what's missing from this equation?" puzzle game because the politics of reporting are known by what is omitted as well as what is reported. FocusTaiwan reported earlier:
Shiu confirmed that of the 7,619 tons of crude cottonseed oil imported into Taiwan since last year, Chang Chi had imported nearly 40 percent of it and the rest went to Flavor Full, which like Chang Chi is based in Changhua County.
If you keep trolling for cottonseed oil and Taiwan on the internet, you soon come to ETaiwan news' report (read it, fascinating discourse on how to adulterate food) which will tell you that the source of the oil was China. But if you look at FocusTaiwan's pieces on the scandal, as far as I can see China is not being reported as the source of the oil. I mean, it's oil from China. Is it really even cottonseed oil? By keeping China out, the story about the edible oil scandal does not become a story that is also about Taiwan's connections with China, which might affect the services industry pact, as well as highlight the island's rapidly expanding dependence on China for cheap food.
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Anonymous said...

Gee, I hope it's not this stuff they're sending over:

Michael Turton said...

Edited for clarity, MF

Anonymous said...

Taiwanese claimed it is Australian cottonseed oil. Only etaiwan news reported it is Chinese oil. So any media digging for the origin of the oil?

Nathan Burns said...

One of the oldest tricks in the book. "I am in trouble" Look over THERE.

I have been here for more than 5 years and these come up time and time again. While no way as bad as what happens on the Mainland it does seem that nothing change. Outrage, denials, calls for people's head, then 2 months later all is forgotten till the next one.

The price we pay for capitalism is apparent to anybody that reads. But somehow it seems the darkness is closer to the surface. Sometimes it feels like i am living in a nation full of the Frerengi (star trek shoutout).

They haven't learned the lessons of the mature corp in the First World. Kill your customers slowly and make them want it (fast food/big sugar) rather than in the short term.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, OT but did you catch that article a few days ago that SARS came from bats?