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Taiwan sports drink scare prompts recall

31st May 2011

Sport drinks in Taiwan and the Philippines have been contaminated with a chemical that causes male infertility, according to officials in the two countries.

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The chemical in question is sometimes known as dioctyl phthalate (DOP), but also abbreviated DHEP.

DOP is a plasticising agent that is inexpensive to manufacture.

Large quantities of DOP are produced around the world, and the chemical is classed as a phthalate.

Five other plasticisers were also added to food products in Taiwan, instead of the only marginally more expensive palm oil, in the interest of profit.

Taiwanese health officials in Taipei first noticed that some soft drinks made on the island contained large amounts of the chemical.

Authorities in Taiwan have arrested the owner of a company that used DOP instead of palm oil in its products, in order to increase profits.

The company supplied the poisoned emulsifier to dozens of local drinks makers and food manufacturers.

The man charged with responsibility for the poisonings could face a six-month jail term, if convicted.

Today, Hong Kong banned two Taiwanese drinks after officials there found high levels of the chemical.

Jesusa Joyce Cirunay, spokeswoman for the Philippine Food and Drug Administration, said that her organisation was monitoring some imported Taiwanese sport drinks and fruit juices, and that the Phillipines government had asked Taiwan for a list of affected drinks.

Earlier this month, Taiwan issued a recall of nearly half a million sports drinks and fruit juices.

Cirunay said that, however, no traces of the chemical had yet been found.

Studies have shown that high doses or long-term exposure to DOP can harm the development of male sex organs in boys.

The Phillipine health regulation advisor said that children were especially prone to harmful effects as a result of exposure to the chemical, including fertility problems and toxicity to kidneys.

Health officials in Hong Kong said that six different batches of the Speed sports drink and the Speed lemon flavour sports drink were laced with DOP.

Other food products contaminated with plasticiser included fruit jam, fruit jelly, and bottled tea.

EcoWaste Coalition, an environment watchdog, said that up to 465,638 bottles of tainted beverages had been pulled from store shelves.

They said that up to 270,822 boxes and 68,924 packs of powdered probiotics and 28,539 kilos of fruit juices, fruit jam, fruit powder and syrup, and yoghurt powder had also been removed from shelves.

 

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