Official: Modified starch fear can hurt Taiwan’s tourism


TAIPEI, Taiwan – Foreign visitor arrivals in Taiwan could be hurt by an ongoing scare over the use of banned industrial ingredients in edible modified starches, tourism industry representatives said Wednesday.

Ko Mu-chou, an official with the Travel Agent Association of the Republic of China, Taiwan, noted that no significant decline in inbound travel has been reported so far.

But independent Japanese tourists could be the hardest hit tourist segment if the scare persists because many Japanese who visit Taiwan on their own come specifically for its cuisine, Ko said.

Several of the items on the Japanese gourmets’ must-try list, including rice noodles, hotpots and bubble tea with tapioca balls, have all been mentioned as items possibly affected by the banned ingredient, Ko explained.

Concerns over the safety of popular snack foods could also affect general interest in visiting night markets, one of Taiwan’s most prominent tourist pastimes.

“The level of the impact depends on how soon the government can fix the problem and regain consumers’ confidence,” Ko said.

Chang Hsi-tsung, deputy director-general of Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau, also told CNA that the starch issue could hurt local tourism in the short term, and he urged health authorities to tighten inspections so that damage to the sector is limited.