By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
An anti-gastric acid drug in syrup form manufactured in Taiwan and tainted with a toxic plasticiser was found in Macau yesterday but has immediately been recalled by the health authority.
Yet, the government spokesperson Alexis Tam Chon Weng announced at a press conference that none of the 505 contaminated food products identified by the Taiwanese authorities had been found on local shelves.
According to director of the Health Bureau (SSM), Lei Chin Ion, the tainted drug – Scrat Suspension ‘Standard’ – in batch number 077 was tested and shown to have contained DIBP, one of the 16 types of plasticisers that should not be used in food.
Lei said between January and May this year about 4,000 packs of this anti-gastric acid drug produced by Standard Chem. & Pharm. Co., Ltd in Taiwan had been imported into Macau.
An instant recall from local importers, drug stores and pharmacies was implemented yesterday, he added.
The SSM chief also pointed out that the health impact of DIBP are the same as other types of plasticisers such as DEHP, and could cause hormonal disturbance and affect the male reproductive system if overused and consumed for a long time.
Although plasticisers could trigger cancer in animals, he reiterated that no solid scientific proof is yet available to confirm that the same effect would occur in the human body.
Meanwhile, Lei confirmed that Macau has imported medicinal syrup from Taiwan but all local hospitals, clinics and pharmaceutical factories did not add this agent in the production of drugs.
He said the SSM would continue to test the 1,600 types of Chinese and western medicine from Taiwan including pills, capsules and syrup.
Nevertheless, Lei said the public laboratories in the SAR are only capable of testing products for the “four main types” of plasticisers and all samples will be delivered to the Guangzhou Institute for Drug Control for a more comprehensive lab test.
He stressed that plasticisers will largely be excreted within 24 hours after ingestion, calling on the public to “drink more water” if they suspect that they have consumed this toxic chemical.
However, he pointed out that a blood test is unlikely to show whether there is any plasticiser in the body.
On the other hand, deputy director of the Economic Services Bureau (DSE) Tai Kin Ip said random tests had begun yesterday afternoon in Macau’s Taiwanese-style food and beverage retail shops.
He said the result is expected to be released in “two to three days”.
The Consumer Council has also requested all the Taiwanese-style beverage stores under its certified shop program to submit proofs of the source of raw materials.
Alexis Tam stressed that the government will closely monitor the situation in all Taiwanese-style restaurants and take-away beverage shops in order to protect local people’s health.
In addition, acting president of the Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau Lei Wai Nong said the authority will continue to carry out tests on imports of juices, sports drinks, tea beverages, syrups and jams, and powder and tablet supplements from Taiwan.
Yet, he said the scope of testing may be expanded according to the “risk assessment” of Macau.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong yesterday banned two more Taiwanese drinks after tests showed they were tainted with excessive amounts of DEHP.
Hong Kong health officials said six samples from different batches of the Speed sports drink and Speed lemon flavour sports drink, both manufactured by a same company in Taiwan, were found to be laced with DEHP. However, these drinks were not found in Macau.
Taiwanese authorities have arrested the owner of a company that used DEHP rather than more expensive palm oil in products supplied to dozens of local drinks makers. He faces up to six months in jail.