Company fined for selling expired meat; 15,600 kg of products sealed

Taipei--A Taichung-based meat importer and wholesaler was fined for storing and selling meat products past their sell-by date, and over 15,600 kg of its products have been sealed and banned from entering the market, health authorities said Saturday.

Lichin Foods Co. Ltd. (????????) was fined NT$6 million (US$198,687) for storing and selling expired frozen pig intestines and frozen chicken drumsticks, according to the Taichung City Health Bureau.

The bureau said that the Ministry of Health and Welfare's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received a tipoff on April 21 that the company was allegedly selling out-of-date products. On April 26, the Taichung City government received a similar tipoff, so it sent health authorities to inspect the company, the bureau said.

After inspection, authorities sealed a total of 15,608 kg of suspicious meat products, including 333 boxes of frozen pork intestines with their labels removed and 220 boxes of frozen chicken drumsticks that expired on Dec. 22 last year and Jan. 5 this year.

The authorities also found 1,674 boxes of frozen boneless pork meat without any labeling.

Taichung City Health Bureau Director Lu Tsung-hsueh (???) said records show that Lichin Foods Co. imported the batch of pig intestines in 2013. The intestines expired on July 1 last year, but the company continued to sell the products after the date and was estimated to have already sold 748 kg of expired intestines to customers.

According to an Apple Daily News report Saturday, the whistleblower, a former delivery driver for Lichin Foods Co., said he personally saw his boss, Liang Chun-jen (???), telling employees to remove expiration date labels from the company's meat products.

The former driver recorded images of employees removing labels and handed the evidence to the health bureau in April after quitting his job, the report said.

He posted the evidence on social media on May 4, after alleging that the bureau was trying to cover up the news.

In response to the allegations, Lu on Saturday apologized to the public for the delay in announcing the inspection results, but said his bureau did so because it has yet to hear from company officials and was expected to hear from them on May 9.

The expired meat scandal came just three days after two other companies were accused of selling expired cashew nuts, almonds, oatmeal and brown sugar products. One of the products had been expired for nine years.

Yang Chien-hui (???), a section chief at the FDA's Southern Center for Regional Administration, said the two companies -- Mother Nature Co. Ltd. (?????????) and Taiwan Naturals and Organics Ltd. (????????) -- are owned by the same person and allegedly repackaged expired food materials, printed new expiration dates on those products and sold them to local stores.

After inspecting the companies' factories, Yang said her agency sealed 31 food materials and products with a total weight of around 29 metric tons.

The owner, Hsu Li-ching (???), and three of his employees, were released on bail Thursday after being questioned by prosecutors.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel