FDA warns vs Taiwan juice, jelly

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MANILA, Philippines—The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday advised consumers to avoid buying sports drinks, soft drinks, fruit juices and jellies imported from Taiwan which are suspected of having been contaminated with a chemical harmful to health.

Taiwanese authorities have confirmed that the chemical Di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) was illegally added to a food product raw material described as a “cloudy agent” and intended for emulsification, said FDA Director Suzette Lazo in an advisory.

“The Taiwanese FDA has not yet identified the brands of the tainted products, so as a precautionary measure, we advise Filipino consumers to refrain from buying them,” Ong told the Inquirer by phone.

Pending identification of the tainted products by Taiwanese health officials, the public must avoid all high–risk products imported from that country, said Department of Health consultant Dr. Willie Ong.

Ong identified the high-risk products as sports drinks, fruit juices, jellies and soft drinks.

As soon as its counterpart in Taiwan has identified the names of the tainted products, the FDA will immediately instruct all supermarkets and retail stores to recall the products, said Ong.

Remove from shelves

In the FDA advisory, Lazo said supermarkets and other stores should temporarily remove high-risk items from their shelves until such time that these are proven to be free of the contaminant DEHP.

DEHP is widely used in the manufacture of plastic articles like intravenous bags and tubing, gastric tubes and blood bags. While low doses of the chemical are safe, prolonged exposure could have harmful effects to health.

High or repeated exposure to DEHP among children could lead to testicular defects, toxicity in kidneys and fertility problems.

Tracing the company

Over the weekend, Lazo reported that “the Taiwan government has informed the Department of Health that a company may have exported to the Philippines food products containing additives contaminated with DEHP.”

“Efforts to trace the local counterpart of this company are currently in progress,” she had added.

Ong recalled that at the height of the worldwide melamine scare in 2008, the FDA was able to immediately order a recall of the tainted milk products from China because the latter provided it with a list of the affected brands.

Six babies died and about 300,000 children in China were taken ill after consuming infant formula laced with melamine. No casualties were reported in the Philippines.

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