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DEHP Plasticizer Scandal in Taiwan

The scandal involved the adulteration of food products with diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) in Taiwan in 2011. Watch the video to learn more.

In 2011, a food scandal was reported in Taiwan where diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), a plasticizer primarily used for improving the flexibility of PVC products, was found to be adulterated in food products.

A total of 426 raw food materials and 965 food products were involved, with beverages, fruit jams/jellies, and dietary supplements being the most affected. The annual production of plasticizers in Taiwan is 0.7 million tonnes, with 75-80% being DEHP. The main source of exposure to phthalates is direct contact with plastic products. The mean DEHP concentrations ranged from 14 ppm in sports drinks to more than 200 ppm in juice beverages, with levels being several orders of magnitude higher than those found in the U.S. and European countries. DEHP is rapidly metabolized into MEHP in the human body, which is then oxidized into secondary metabolites and excreted through urine and feces. To cope with this incident, the National Health Research Institute held the RAPIT program (risk assessment of phthalate incident in Taiwan) to assess exposure levels of the general population, including children, adolescents, and adults.

Review questions:

  • What is DEHP, and how is it used in PVC products?
  • What are the sources of exposure to phthalates, and how do they affect human health?
  • How did the National Health Research Institute respond to the food scandal involving DEHP in Taiwan?
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