‘LeVic Babies Rice Cookie’ recalled over safety concerns

Taipei-A New Taipei-based food company is recalling a baby rice cracker product after local health officials found evidence the firm was illegally using nitrogen in food packaging.

In a statement published on its website Tuesday, Chanyue International Co. announced it decided to recall "LeVic Babies Rice Cookie" from shelves around Taiwan from Monday, after its use of nitrogen for product packaging raised health concerns.

The company is offering customers refunds, returns or replacements and will send the recalled items to a third party certification body to conduct food safety tests.

Meanwhile, the New City Government's Department of Health said in a statement issued Tuesday that acting on a tip-off, health personnel and agents with the Ministry of Justice's Investigation Bureau in the city visited the company on Feb. 26. During the inspection, nitrogen in cylinders labeled "banned for use with food," was found being used to package rice crackers.

The health department said it has directed Chanyue to improve its flawed and unsanitary production processes which violate the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation and will carry out another inspection in two weeks. If the company fails to make improvements it could face a fine ranging from NT$60,000 (US$2,153) to NT$200 million.

According to international regulations, only nitrogen that is at least 99 percent purity can be used for food packaging, said Yang Shu-tai (???), an official with the health department.

However, during the first inspection, the company failed to provide a purity certificate for the gas.

To ensure the integrity of the food supply chain, 497 kilograms of "LeVic Babies Rice Cookie" were sealed on site, according to the department.

Late on Tuesday, company owner Tsai Wen-yuan (???) posted a video on LeVic's Facebook page in which he apologized to the public over the company's negligence.

In the video, Tsai said the nitrogen supplier told him the nitrogen was 99.9999 percent pure and provided a purity analysis report.

It has only recently become apparent that the gas does not comply with related laws, regulations and standards, Tsai added.

All recalled items will be destroyed and no such products will be sold on the market, he said.

Nitrogen is an inert gas which means it does not react with prepared food materials, which can alter their aroma or flavor. Also, gaseous nitrogen effectively displaces oxygen minimizing oxidation and the growth of microorganisms that cause foods to lose their freshness and deteriorate faster.

The use of nitrogen in food packaging is one of the most effective ways of slowing down food deterioration and improving longevity.

However, only pure food-grade nitrogen can be used to boost efficiency in the food processing industry.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel