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Fast-food chain ‘wait for the results of a fine

19 July 2009 1,271 views No Comment

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The Public Health Bureau of Taipei County yesterday deferred the fining of fast food chains that had used arsenic-tainted oil so as to avoid violating the “No Double Sanctions Jeopardy Clause,” local media reported. As such, the amounts to charge McDonald’s and Domino’s Pizza are yet to be determined, pending the outcome of the current investigation led by the Banciao District Prosecutors Office, added media.

The provision under Article 26 of the Administrative Penalty Act stipulates that any person cannot be penalized twice for the same offense.

Should a crime infringe upon both the Criminal and Administrative Codes, the former takes precedence and any punishment must be in accordance with criminal laws.

Health officials previously agreed on a minimum fine of NT$60,000 for the two food companies, but, due to the launch of formal investigations last week by county prosecutors, decided that leveling any penalty now would be premature.

In related news, inspectors on behalf of the Cabinet-level Department of Health (DOH) found scant traces of arsenic in magnesium trisilicate, a food additive poured into frying oil.

Samples sent to labs registered approximately 0.05 to 0.06 parts per million of the carcinogen in the unused powder, said reports.

Magnesium trisilicate is used to filter unwanted residue fat from used frying oil. The additive can absorb fatty acids and remove impurities formed in edible oils during the frying process.

Despite recent efforts by the DOH to quell consumer concerns, health experts yesterday recommended the suspension of use of the aforementioned additive until it is proven safe.

DOH officials said on Friday that the intake of food with minimal traces of arsenic poses no imminent health concern.

Lin Jie-liang, an attending physician at the toxicology department at the Chang Gung Medical Foundation Linkou Branch, said that the DOH should order a comprehensive inspection of magnesium trisilicate used at restaurants to test for the presence of arsenic and other toxic heavy metals.

The DOH should also implement a more stringent safety standard and restrict the use of the powder product before it is ruled out as a health hazard, added Lin.

Tsai Jing-ming, a biotechnology professor at Chung Yuan Christian University, reiterated the same sentiment by saying that until the additive is proven free of arsenic, health authorities should ban its use.

Further tests would also be able to determine whether or not magnesium trisilicate has in fact been the culprit behind the recent controversy surrounding arsenic-tainted oil, Tsai said.

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