Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Chinatown stores asked to stop selling Taiwan food products

An environmental group is urging store owners in Chinatown in Binondo, Manila, to be on the alert for contaminated Taiwan-made food products following a recent Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) warning.

The FDA recently advised the public to avoid Taiwanese fruit jams and preserves, fruit juices, sports drinks, teas, food powders and food or food supplement tablets, while the Taiwan government has yet to identify products illegally containing Di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), a plastic-making chemical that can be dangerous when ingested in high doses.

The chemical could cause infertility and block development of male sex organs, FDA officials said.

Earlier this month, Taiwan issued a major recall of products, including more than 460,000 bottles of sports drinks and fruit juice, over fears they contained the chemical widely used in manufacturing PVC products.

Taipei warned Manila last week that DEHP could have been illegally added to food products that were exported to the Philippines.

On Tuesday morning, the EcoWaste Coalition went from store to store in Chinatown, bearing placards in Chinese and English that said “Don’t sell unless proven DEHP–free.”

They stopped by stores from Binondo Church to Sta. Cruz Church, weaving their way through Ongpin, Carvajal, Salazar, Masangkay, T. Alonzo and T. Mapua streets.

They gave supermarkets, groceries and drug stores a list of DEHP–contaminated products downloaded from the Taiwanese government website, and asked the sellers to pull out “high-risk” Taiwanese products from their shelves.

In a statement, Aileen Lucero, chemical safety campaigner of EcoWaste Coalition, appealed 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.”

“To date, almost 500 product items manufactured by 155 Taiwanese food and drink companies have been found to contain DEHP,” EcoWaste said in a statement.

The group also advised sellers that products that fail to secure DEHP-free certifications should be returned to importers or distributors for safe disposal.

The FDA had earlier warned that DEHP, especially when taken by children, could lead to testicular defects, kidney and fertility problems, and even cancer.

The FDA is monitoring some imported Taiwanese sport drinks, fruit juices and soft drinks that Taipei said may contain excessive amounts of DEHP, FDA spokesperson Jesusa Joyce Cirunay said.

“Our government has asked Taiwan for a list, and we are tracking these products,” she added.

Cirunay did not name the brands on the list, saying no traces of DEHP contamination have been found and there have been no reports of people falling ill in the Philippines.


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