Last month, consumers in Taiwan were shocked by a massive recall of lard oil and products made with lard oil, including a variety of pastries and prepackaged foods. As it turns out, the lard oil in these products may have been contaminated with “gutter oil”—substandard cooking oil gathered from sources like kitchen and slaughterhouse waste. This contaminated oil may have been on the market for as long as six months. The oil came from Chang Guann Co., a widely used oil supplier in Taiwan, which began purchasing oil from an unlicensed factory in late February of this year.
Chang Guann purchased more than 200 tons of gutter oil from its unlicensed supplier, which the company used to produce more than 700 tons of supposedly edible oil. This oil was sold to grocery stores, restaurants, schools, and military bases throughout Taiwan. Companies in Hong Kong and Macau also purchased contaminated oil from Chang Guann, and have since issued their own recalls of products affected by the gutter oil.
This scandal has shaken public trust in Taiwan’s food safety inspection services, particularly because some products linked to the contaminated oil had been governmentally certified as safe. Many are calling for a reform of the nation’s food safety system. According to Fanny Liu of The Wall Street Journal, “Currently, a quality certificate can be issued even when only one out of a particular manufacturer’s products passes relevant tests.” Bonnie Sun Pan, the leader of the association that analyzes Taiwan’s food safety testing results, has revealed that that these standards may soon be changed. “In the future, the certification may require a pass on all products.” The association expects challenges to accompany future changes as its 500 food safety workers take on an industry of 300,000 manufacturers.