Taiwan’s health minister quits over ‘gutter oil’ scandal

TAIPEI: Taiwan’s health minister Chiu Wen-ta has resigned over a food safety scare that has gripped the island after hundreds of tonnes of products made with “gutter oil” were removed from sale.

Chiu had repeatedly offered to step down after the tainted oil case  surfaced last month, and his resignation was finally approved by Premier Jiang  Yi-huah late Friday, a cabinet statement said.

He is the third minister to have stepped down in recent months. Economic  affairs minister Chang Chia-juch resigned over fatal gas blasts in August,  while education minister Chiang Wei-ling quit in July after he was implicated in an academic scandal.

Chiu’s resignation came as prosecutors on Friday indicted Yeh Wen-hsiang,  chairman of Chang Guann Co., on 235 accounts of fraud and food safety  violations for selling hundreds of tonnes of “gutter oil” to food companies,  bakeries and restaurants.

Three people, including the manager of an unlicensed factory that supplied  the firm, were indicted for the same offences while four others were charged  with violating waste disposal law, prosecutors said.

Yeh has been detained since September 13 after investigators discovered his  company had purchased 243 tonnes of tainted oil collected from cookers, fryers,  and grease traps, as well as recycled grease from leather processing plants.

The contaminated fat was then mixed with regular lard before being distributed to clients.

Since last month, hundreds of tonnes of cakes, bread, instant noodles,  cookies, dumplings and other food items have been removed from shelves in  Taiwan and Hong Kong for containing the tainted oil, authorities said.

It is the second food safety scandal to hit the island in less than a year.  Last December, a Taiwanese factory owner was sentenced to 16 years in prison  for selling olive oil adulterated with cheap cottonseed oil and a banned  colouring agent, following mass product recalls.

Source: APP