Cancerous food additive used in Vietnam: officials

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A carcinogenic food scare that has spread from Taiwan to several countries may have been used in several products consumed in Vietnam, officials have said.

The Taiwan Department of Health (DOH) confirmed Wednesday that it has recently discovered the cancer-causing plasticizer diethylhexylphthalate (DEHP) in some bottled drinks. The findings were reported to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The department has also informed health authorities in China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, the Philippines and the United States, since the DEHP-tainted drinks and food additives may also have been exported to those areas, the Taiwan Focus News Channel cited Kang Jaw-jou, director-general of the DOH's Food and Drug Administration as saying.

Investigations have found that Yu Shen Chemical Co., the largest emulsifier supplier in Taiwan, is responsibile for the DEHP contamination.

Kang said Yu Shen Chemical illegally added the banned chemical to an emulsifier as a substitute for the more expensive palm oil, in order to cut production costs.

The contaminated emulsifier was sold to more than 40 food and drink manufacturers around Taiwan. One of them was Jin Zhuan, whose products were popular in Vietnam.

Many restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City use Jin Zhuan syrups and fruit squash the 2.5 liter plastic containers sell for VND120,000 to VND130,000 a piece, the Tuoi Tre newspaper reported Saturday.

The owner of a milk tea shop in District 5 said that tapioca balls of Taiwanese origin have diverse tastes and are bestsellers in the market.

A wholesale store on District 6's Tran Binh Street said that Taiwanese syrups sell like hot cakes and he always had to book orders ahead of making purchases.

According customs officials at the Saigon Port, 7,200 bottles of beverages have been imported from Taiwan through the port so far this year. Around 15 tons of Di(2-ethylhexyl), valued at $44,800 was also imported from Taiwan, but the buyers had declared this was for use in the plastics industry, they said.

On May 27, the Ho Chi Minh City Health Department said it had instructed the municipal Food Safety Division to take samples of certain beverages on sale in the city to test for DEHP.

Huynh Le Thai Hoa, the division head, said test results should be available by May 30.

Meanwhile, Nguyen Cong Khan, head of the Food Safety and Hygiene Department under the Ministry of Health, said the agency would take random samples of food products from markets in different localities to test for DEHP.

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