Taipei, Nov. 13 (CNA) Taiwan was informed by Spanish officials as early as 2009 that two local firms were selling adulterated cooking oils and passing them off as pure imports from Spain, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed Wednesday.
FDA head Yeh Ming-kung said a review of internal documents found that Spain’s representative office in Taiwan raised concerns over the oil once in 2009 and again in 2011.
The statement all but confirms a report in the latest issue of Next Magazine that Taiwanese health authorities had information on the adulterated oil producers long before news of it broke last month but took no action.
Yeh dismissed accusations of negligence, however, saying the government found during checks that the two producers — Taisun Enterprise Co. and Fwusow Industry Co. — had imported their oil from Spain but packaged it in Taiwan.
The government at the time lacked the technology to test the contents of the oil, Yeh said, leading authorities only to demand the two companies correct their labels in regards to country of origin.
Taiwan at the time informed Spain’s representative office of its actions, he said.
Taisun, however, refuted the Next Magazine report as “false accusations,” saying that its Domingo-brand olive oil was proven to be 100 percent pure in 2009.
Deputy General Manager Chang Sung-an said the company could produce import records and sales figures to back up its claims.
Fwusow released a similar statement saying that local health officials in Taichung had found its extra virgin olive oil in line with regulations in both 2009 and 2011.
Both companies claimed that they stamped the country origin code of 47 — meaning Taiwan, not Spain — on their bottles because while the oil had been imported from Spain, it was bottled in Taiwan.
They did not, however, address the relative low cost of their olive oil, which Next Magazine named as one of the concerns brought up by Spanish officials.
Extra virgin olive oil is produced in Spain at a cost between 4 and 5 euro (NT$159-199; US$5.37-6.72) per liter, according to the magazine; that means a price of NT$500-600 would barely make a profit.
Taisun stirred up suspicion by pricing its supposedly imported oil at NT$460 per liter, while Fwusow’s oil sold for just NT$259 per liter at the time.
Next magazine also cited Spanish officials’ report in 2009 which claimed import and sales figures did not match up.
Spain’s office in Taiwan at the time demanded harsh punishment for the companies committing food fraud, singling out Taisun and Fwusow, the magazine said.
Source focustaiwanSpain warned Taiwan over counterfeit import oil in 2009,