BEIJING - The mainland's top quality watchdog issued a temporary ban on importing food from Taiwan enterprises identified as producing food with an illegal additive.
The ban, which took effect on Wednesday, is the latest response from the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine toward the high-profile Taiwan drink scandal, during which many enterprises have been found producing beverages with DEHP.
DEHP, an additive used to make plastic soft and pliable, can affect hormone balances in young people, and has been identified as carrying serious health risks in plastic toys for children.
The ban listed 10 enterprises as problematic, including Uni-President, which was founded to have exported more than 200 cases of tainted asparagus juice to Fujian province. The list will be updated on www.aqsiq.gov.cn.
Sports drinks, juices, tea drinks, fruit jams or syrups, tablets or powders, and food additives produced by these 10 enterprises will be banned from entering the mainland market, and other Taiwan enterprises have to show DEHP-free certificates to export the above-listed products to the mainland.
According to the announcement, Taiwan authorities have notified the administration about the enterprises that have illegally used DEHP.
"To ensure the safety of imported food from Taiwan and the health of mainland citizens, we issued the ban to better supervise food imported from Taiwan," according to the announcement.
Experts welcomed the ban, calling it timely and effective, but wondered whether similar products produced by mainland enterprises might also contain DEHP.
"The ban is very important at such a time when the public are very concerned and nervous about food safety," said Sang Liwei, a lawyer specializing in food safety. "However, if Taiwan enterprises use that in their products, we have every reason to suspect mainland enterprises may also use it. I suggest the administration take a further step and start a thorough examination of DEHP by mainland food producers."
Sang emphasized that the toxicity of DEHP is about 30 times that of melamine, and this scandal is no less formidable than the melamine-tainted dairy scandal on the mainland in 2008.
Zhou Yingheng, a professor from Nanjing Agricultural University, who is also a food safety expert, echoed Sang's opinion and suggested that such examinations should be carried out "immediately".
"Most examination of food is about things on the list, and DEHP is not an item on the food examination list. This scandal reminds us that they can add things we never thought possible to be put in food," said Zhou.
York Chow, secretary for Food and Health of Hong Kong, announced on Wednesday that Hong Kong is checking whether food, beverage and medicine imported from Taiwan contain DEHP, and the results will be made public daily.
Given that more than 200 enterprises have been implicated and 500 products contaminated, Taiwan's health authorities on Tuesday required companies to verify their products were free of six chemical plasticizers, including DEHP. Companies that failed to produce the required certification will have their products removed from the market.
On May 23, Taiwan's health authorities announced that DEHP had been found in some bottled beverages and dairy products, and have demanded 168 food processors recall more than 1 million tainted items.