Taiwan is grappling with its latest food safety scandal, its third in four months. Authorities ordered Wednesday a countrywide recall of dried bean curd after tests in Hong Kong discovered possible traces of banned industrial dye dimethyl yellow in them. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director-General Chiang Yu-mei said that they have managed to retrieve over 2.5 tons of almost 40 flavors of dried tofu products so far. The agency has also tracked down 12 distributors of the food additive containing the dyes, which were produced by the company Chien Hsin, and at least 44 food makers that use products from that company.
The dye has been linked to cancer in animals, but currently there is insufficient evidence of a similar effect in humans. Such dyes have escaped Taiwanese periodic food safety checks because looking out for the dye has usually been a low priority. The FDA has ordered any manufacturer that uses the soybean emulsifiers supplied by Chien Hsin to recall their products by Saturday or risk a maximum fine of NT$200 million ($6.3 million).
Taiwan was rocked by the news in September that some of its food products were made with “gutter oil,” or recycled oil from oil traps. Hundreds of tons of products were recalled, and the scandal resulted in the resignation of the country’s health minister. A month later, another company, Ting Hsin group, was prosecuted for selling cooking oil tainted by animal feed.
Locals have expressed outrage at their health authorities for failing to enact more stringent food safety standards despite the frequency of scandals in recent months. Additionally, the Chinese-language version of BBC reported that Greenpeace and international environmental bodies have criticized Taiwan’s newly revised “Toxic Chemical Substances Control Act (TCSCA)” as being ineffective and behind international standards. Observers have said that these recent developments contributed to the ruling party's landslide defeat in last month's local elections.