MANILA, Philippines - The Food and Drug Administration is checking whether some Taiwanese products believed to contain a harmful chemical have been exported to the Philippines.
But while the exact names of the products have not yet been identified officially, the FDA has advised supermarket owners to pull out some Taiwanese products from their shelves.
It is possible that some Taiwanese food and drinks contaminated with Di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), a product used in making plastic, have reached the Philippines.
In Taiwan, the selling of products made using an emulsifier made by the Yu Shen Chemical Company has already been stopped.
A study made by the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration showed that Yu Shen Chemical Company used DEHP as substitute for palm oil.
Among the products pulled out from store shelves in Taiwan are energy drinks, bottled tea and juices, fruit jam, and fruit jelly with ingredients made by Yu Shen Chemical Company.
The Taiwan FDA website identified the contaminated products as:
- Nature House Lactic Acid Bacteria (apple vinegar-flavored lactic acid powder) produced by King Car Group;
- Skinny Dietary Drinks by Chang Gung Biotechnology Corp.;
- Taiwan Sugar Ginger Clam Tablets by Taiwan Sugar Corporation; and,
- Dongli Sports Drinks and Dongli Lemon Sports Drinks.
As of Friday, May 27, the Taiwan FDA reported that "up to 465,638 bottles of DEHP-tainted beverages have been pulled out from store shelves. Also, up to 270,822 boxes and 68,924 packs of powdered probiotics and 28,539 kilos of fruit juices, fruit jam, powder and syrup, and yoghurt powder have been removed from shelves," according to EcoWaste Coalition, an environment watchdog. The group added that to date, close to 500 product items manufactured by 155 Taiwanese food and drink companies have been found to contain DEHP.
But the FDA in the Philippines, said, however, that Taiwan has not provided them a list of these products exported to the country.
The FDA has given Taiwan 2 days to provide them the said list. If Taiwan does not give out the list in time, the FDA will call for the mandatory pullout of such products from retail shelves.
Some supermarkets have already taken a step farther and already pulled out such products made in Taiwan even if the FDA has not released yet a list of brands contaminated with DEHP.
The Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association released a memo on Monday (May 30) to its members, directing them to pull out these products from their stores.
"So, take a look and if it's from Taiwan and it falls under those categories, iwasan na lang nila para at least better safe than sorry," said Steven Cua, president of Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association.
The Philippine FDA said DEHP has long-term effects on one's health.
"DEHP is not in the same category as poisons that will kill immediately. But still, because it is used as food, the exposure may be involving high doses that is still having a potential to do harm," said Dr. Suzette Lazo of the FDA.
It cannot say yet the exact amount when DEHP is deemed dangerous.
Its effects, though, will be most severe on children. If ingested (by drinking or eating) in large amounts, DEHP may cause cancer, fertility problems, and kidney failure.
DEHP may also cause birth defects.
While waiting for official news from Taiwan, the FDA is planning to conduct its own testing of Taiwan-made products to ensure that products sold in the Philippines are not contaminated by DEHP.
Meanwhile, EcoWaste Coalition sent "AlerToxic Patrollers" to Binondo, Manila's Chinatown, on Tuesday (May 31) to urge shop owners to stop selling Taiwanese products not declared safe from DEHP.
The AlerToxic Patrollers, carrying placards in Chinese and English with messages such as "Don't sell unless proven DEHP-free", went around Binondo Church, Sta. Cruz Church, and the streets of Ongpin, Carvajal, Salazar, Masangkay, T. Alonzo, and T. Mapua.
The group also gave store owners a list of DEHP-contaminated products.
“We have come here today with an urgent plea to all importers, distributors and vendors of high-risk beverage, food and medicinal goods from Taiwan to temporarily stop from selling such products until consumer safety from DEHP is totally guaranteed,” said Aileen Lucero, Chemical Safety Campaigner of EcoWaste Coalition.
“We think it is a very reasonable demand given the toxic crisis that is sadly affecting Taiwan’s food industry,” said Lucero.
The group urged shop owners and businessmen to take these steps to ensure public safety:
1. Temporarily remove from store shelves beverage, food and medicinal products that have been classified as “high-risk” by the Taiwanese government.
2. Ask the importers or distributors of the “high-risk” products to produce verifiable certificates that the goods are not tainted with DEHP.
3. Put back goods to the store shelves only after being confirmed as DEHP-free.
4. Return products that have failed to secure DEHP-free certifications back to importers or distributors for safe disposal.
“Amid the Taiwan toxic food scare, it is only fair and rational for local businessmen to assure their customers that only certified DEHP-free products are being sold in the market,” added Lucero. -- With report from Jenny Reyes, ABS-CBN News