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Alert out on toxic jelly

Local supermarkets are pulling a Taiwanese fruit jelly from their shelves amid reports that the product contains a toxic chemical that is a proven health hazard.

Taiwanese health officials issued a warning on Friday stating that DEHP, a plastic polymer that is harmful to humans, has been found in domestic and exported fruit jelly and sports drinks. The jelly, a product of Taiwan’s Triko Foods Company, is labelled with a red, three-character logo in Chinese and says “coconut jelly” in English on the package.

Research shows a link between DEHP and damage to the liver, heart and lungs, according to the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. The amount of the chemical present in the products for sale in Cambodia and the associated health risks were unclear yesterday.

A 2009 United States Food and Drug Administration report on DEHP said the substance can reduce the size of reproductive organs in male children. The chemical is commonly used in medical equipment, plastic piping and other plastic products.

Cambodia has imported more than 50,000 kilogrammes of the jelly from Triko Foods during the past year and a half, Taiwan’s Taichung City Health Department said in a statement on Friday. The apple-, aloe vera- and taro- flavoured products come in 25 and 35 gramme portions and have been on sale recently in some local supermarkets.

The Bayon Supermarket chain in Phnom Penh has pulled the jelly products from shelves, Chheang Meang, the supermarket’s director, said yesterday.

Chheang Meang said he had been contacted by the Taiwanese company yesterday and asked to remove the products, but to retain them in stock pending further examination by Taiwan health officials.
“I ordered my staff to take them out because Taiwan thinks the product has a problem that will affect people’s health,” Chheang Meang said.

“The Taiwanese company told us to keep it in stock but not sell it. They are examining it now.”

Triko Foods representative Lin Dingyi said yesterday from Taiwan that his company had contacted the Cambodian Ministry of Health about the issue on Friday. Health Minister Mam Bunheng said, however, that he was unaware of the problem.

“I didn’t know that toxic Taiwanese food was imported to Cambodia, but I will order an official who works with food to examine whether or not these products are in Cambodia,” Mam Bunheng said.   

The Taiwanese Health Department said Yu Shen Fragrance Company, one of Taiwan’s largest food-additive producers, is the origin of the DEHP that has contaminated the food. In addition to Triko Foods, the department has detected DEHP in the products of about 200 other firms that source materials from Yu Shen Fragrance Company.

China, Vietnam and Thailand are  also believed to have imported the tainted products.

At an emergency meeting held yesterday in response to the problem, Taiwanese officials proposed an act that would increase penalties for using toxic substances in food products.



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