Monday, October 13, 2014

Another day, another cooking oil scandal...

Nanhua Reservoir

Well, I've been manfully ignoring this latest cooking oil scandal, one in a string of dozens over the years since I've been here. I tire of commenting on them. But it's no use. It's just too damn big and hot right now. The KMT news organ emotes:
Last week, it was revealed that Cheng-I Food Co., Ltd. (正義公司), a subsidiary of the Ting Hsin Group (頂新集團), allegedly mixed animal feed oil with edible oil to produce over 60 kinds of cooking oil products for sale. During a press conference in the morning of October 11, Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) stated that the tainted oil scandal caused widespread public concerns over food safety, and pledged that the government would demonstrate its resolve to root out all black-hearted (unscrupulous) food manufacturers. Jiang vowed, “The government will take all necessary measures to eliminate the production of tainted foods.”
In case you were wondering, the Kaohsiung city government shut down the production lines of Ting Hsin and Cheng-I, meaning that they do have the power to do that. Horse, barn door, etc. The premier had tariffs on imported lard lowered to help get exports to cover demand.

The Changhua County prosecutors office is pursuing this affair, and have detained several people related to the two firms. Chiayi county hosts the factories which sold animal feed oil to Ting Hsin/Cheng-I and the operators of those firms are being detained as well. The oil meant for animal feed came originally from Vietnam, so only the food gods know what is in it. *sigh*

I wrote in November of 2013 about the scandal last October: What's Not in the News:
HEADLINE NEWS!!!! Taiwan gov't tipped off by Spain in 2009could be something wrong with the oil! Or adulterated oil company executive appears in court and is unrepentant. Defense Ministry to seek compensation for suspect oils

The oil scandal is so useful. The oil companies are scapegoated for all the food sins of Taiwanese firms, the meat packed with antibiotics, the fraudulent organic food, the pears from Dongshih sold as Lishan pears, the rice noodles that aren't rice...

and when was the last time you read an article on the wiretapping issue? Gone from the news. Never mind the stagnant incomes, the capital gains tax, the land tax... modern Establishment media is so useful, if it didn't exist, it would have to be invented.
We just had an oil scandal a month ago. This one is bigger. One of the firms involved is the well-known brand Wei Chuan, which is part of the same conglomerate as Ting Hsin. Once again, the KMT news organ:
On October 9, Wei resigned as chairman of three companies under the Ting Hsin International Group, i.e., Wei Chuan Foods Corporation, Ting Hsin Oil and Fat Industrial Co., and Cheng-I Food Co., Ltd.

In fact, before Wei announced the suspension of Ting Hsin Oil and Fat Industrial Co. (頂新製油) and Cheng-I Food Co., Kaohsiung City’s Department of Health had already ordered that the production lines of two companies be suspended pending further investigation.
Wei Chuan ejected itself from the last scandal (Oil Theatre) by yanking products from the shelves, but can't do anything about this one.

Apple Daily has been featuring angry and potentially explosive anonymous letters from the Angry Citizen, as the Taipei Times reports:
The two top government leaders’ response to the scandal was also published in yesterday’s issue of the Chinese-language Apple Daily, in which Ma said: “It only hurts our feelings, not our bodies,” and Jiang said: “Like every one of you, I’m worried about food safety, so in my home, we use only imported olive oil.”

“The responses from both of you to these incidents have flabbergasted the public, hurting not only their feelings, but also their physical health,” the citizen said.

The citizen went on to accuse the government of not doing enough to punish law-breaking businesspeople and not alleviating people’s concerns about food safety in Taiwan.

The citizen expanded their complaints to the government’s missteps over the past few years in terms of economic development, social order, labor rights and information security.
The interesting thing here is the last paragraph. The last go-round of tainted oil didn't seem to have the power to make a political impact, but like Angry Citizen, people are connecting the dots. Rex How, the former Ma government advisor turned sane, has called for a boycott of the Ting Hsin group.
Former national policy adviser Rex How (郝明義) yesterday urged Taiwanese to boycott media subsidiaries of Ting Hsin International Group, including recently established 4G mobile provider Taiwan Star Telecom and possible acquisition cable TV operator China Network Systems (CNS), over the embattled conglomerate’s involvement in a series of food safety scandals.
How said that most of the group's revenues come from its China business (China suspended imports of its oil) so the boycott some are calling for won't have much effect. The government made its usual promises to crack down... but remember, there's an election next month. Will this affect the election? If Angry Citizen keeps filling Apple Daily's front page with the shameful state of the government's regulation of the food processing industry, it just might. People are angry here.

Yet, it's not like food scandals are happening in a vacuum. Everything is this way in Taiwan, from the corner-cutting in construction to the widespread tax evasion to the blithe neglect of bad drivers to the enormous underground economy, with its factories, retail establishments, hotels, and banks, all illegal. We all participate in it, and we all take advantage of it. Does the public want to see this paradise of lax legal enforcement curtailed, have it own behavior inspected?

I doubt it.
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Mike Fagan said...

"Does the public want to see this paradise of lax legal enforcement curtailed, have it own behavior inspected?"

No, but then that isn't on the menu, so to speak. But that's a side of Taiwanese identity not many people want to crow about. I think there is a lot to be said in favour of it, despite my own preferences.

an angry taiwanese said...

Michael Turton,
Don't you feel tired or lonely in speaking up against injustice. You are not the only one feeling tired and lonely but that's the way they want each of us to feel. Whatever hidden dirty things will be revealed and punished. That day will come. Experience from someone who was forced to wear a black arm band for mourning when that all-terrifying Chiang KS died as an elementary school pupil.

Geoff C...Adelaide said...

"Recycled Oil" became something of a sick joke when recently visiting Taiwan. Naturally when there is so much "eating out", what goes into your guts on a 3+ daily basis would make a thinking person pause for thought wouldn't it? So we were quite shocked to have the unassailable FACT that "Taiwan food is clean, good, pure and unadulterated and almost as good as Japanese," shattered. If you cannot trust Japanese and Taiwanese food producers who can you trust? Apparently Jiang prefers imported olive oil to avoid health problems. Perhaps his knowledge is not so good either. Maybe he is naive. There is plenty of information about olive oil adulteration on the 'net (eg ) and it is very interesting reading indeed. "But it is imported so it must be good!" The great unwashed have forgotten about the "Appellation de Controlee" French wine scandal, (tastes like piss anyway) The Italian "bread into cheese" scandal (vintage cheese in 3 days!) The Italian wine scandal (chemicals to vintage in 24 hours and you couldn't tell the difference). Maybe consider too Roma tomato paste triple concentrated in north China and diluted and canned in Italy and re-exported. Or you can have the Italian tomato paste canned in China with authentic Italian labels to your own Italian design which is much cheaper. Oh that authentic pomodoro balsamico taste on spaghetti takes me right back to Milano.....or Tianjin. Now if you read the Wicki article you will see that US olive oil ain't really good olive oil at all. Its easy to turn canola to olive oil. BUT, Australian imported olive oil...not one passed scrutiny, not one! Only Aussie made and bottled passed and that is some small expensive comfort. So Taiwan, you are not alone in being ripped off by the greedy bastards who do not care for your health. It's not only adulterated oil. That you can do something about. What about the air you breathe? Read the labels carefully, buy fresh and be a right pain in the arse sceptic.

les said...

China suspends Taiwanese food imports. Man, that's got to sting.

Karl Smith said...

I swear. If you can't trust a company named (正義), who can ya' trust?