After revelations about Chang Guann’s horrible practice of using gutter oil in its products, the Taiwanese firm’s upstream supplier said everyone else in the business was doing something similar. Proving its point, Ting Hsin Group, another large Taiwan-based food and beverage company, came under fire last Thursday for mixing animal feed oil into its cooking oil.
The edible oil contamination crisis has inflamed passions among Taiwanese people. Being snared in a food safety scandal for the third time in less than a year, Ting Hsin Group has in particular come in for harsh criticism, with critics accusing it of showing total disregard for public health. The company is now likely to face the worst consumer boycott in years.
Ting Hsin products are already banned in all Taipei primary schools, according to Yicai.com. Following calls by some consumer groups, there is also a broader island-wide campaign to boycott everything from Ting Hsin, which apart from oil, also owns household names like instant noodles maker Ting Yi Holdings (00322.HK), Wei Chuan Foods Corp and fried chicken fast-food chain Dicos.
Taiwan celebrities such as writer Giddens Ko, singer Chen Chenyue and chef Ah-Chi have all criticized the company for earning immoral profits. Chen Chenyue even went so far as to say that the Ting Hsin group was slowly murdering the Taiwanese.
Chinese communities in mainland China and Hong Kong have also been urged to blacklist Ting Hsin.
China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said the country has suspended imports of cooking oil products made by the Taiwanese group. Hong Kong’s Centre for Food Safety has banned all imports of animal oil from Taiwan last week.
Ting Hsin’s chief executive Wei Yingchung has stepped down to take the blame for the latest scandal. He also promised to shut down two oil factories, Cheng-I Food and Ting Hsin Oil & Fat Industrial Company, for the time being.
However, such gestures were too little, too late to keep the Taiwan public from feeling furious.
For a company that has seen many malpractices, only a severe knock in sales and profits will knock some sense into the management and spur fundamental changes in the operations. Surging public anger in Taiwan and spreading concerns in other parts of Greater China may just bring enough economic pain to shake up Ting Hsin.
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