Despite DEHP crisis, Taiwanese tea drinks still hot in Singapore

Singapore, June 8 (CNA) Beverage shops selling Taiwan’s trademark tea drinks have continued to post strong sales in Singapore even though many of the ingredients used in the drinks have been engulfed in a contamination scandal that erupted in Taiwan in mid-May.

Tea beverage sales in Taiwan have suffered from the snowballing food safety scare, sparked by the discovery of industrial chemicals such as DEHP (di 2 ethylhexyl phthalate) in a wide array of foods, beverages and dietary supplements, but the situation in Singapore is far different.

Long lines continue to build up outside tea houses selling Taiwanese tea drinks, such as bubble tea, a uniquely Taiwanese beverage made from different flavors of tea, milk and tapioca balls, known as “pearls.”

The KOI Cafe Group, owned by the same family that operates Taiwan’s “50 Lan” tea store chain, has been operating tea houses in Singapore for three years, with eight shops at present.

KOI Cafe chief executive Avon Ma told the Central News Agency in an interview Wednesday that sales were affected to some extent when the DEHP-contamination scandal came to light in Taiwan.

“We immediately suspended sales of tea drinks containing fruit juice concentrates suspected of being adulterated with the toxic chemical,” Ma said.

“Customers have returned in droves since we put those products back on store shelves after they passed safety examinations by Singapore’s Agri-Food Veterinary Authority (AVA),” she said.

The company now displays the latest AVA certification document at all eight of its retail stores.

Ma said she felt the DEHP storm could in fact be a boon to Taiwan’s food industry in the long run.

“The incident has drawn public attention to food additive issues and could lead to a cleanup of Taiwan’s food industry, ” she said.

Huang Hsiao-chien, the chief executive in Singapore of another noted Taiwanese tea store chain, Reach Tea Cafe, which just began operations in the Southeast Asian city state, said she was not at all worried by Taiwan’s food safety storm.

Producing a large pile of AVA certificates vouching for the safety of the chain’s products, Huang said that whenever consumers question the safety of the chain’s beverages, sales clerks point to the certificates to set their minds at ease.

“Most consumers accept our explanations and take pleasure in consuming our beverages,” she said.

According to market sources, Singaporean tea houses selling Taiwanese-style drinks can sell thousands of cups a day.

Market surveys show that most Singaporean consumers are aware of the DEHP contamination scandal in Taiwan.

But many said their love for Taiwanese tea drinks would not be affected by the incident because they were confident in the Singaporean government’s ability to prevent foods and beverages tainted by toxic substances from reaching store shelves. (By Tang Pei-chun and Sofia Wu) enditem/ls

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