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Breaking Bad, Taiwan-style: Rogue chemistry teacher cooks up illegal food additive

Adam Pasick

If Walter White were Taiwanese, he might be making a poisonous chemical that makes processed food crispier.

According to a Taiwanese legislator, a retired high school chemistry teacher has been teaching food factories to make maleic acid, an illegal food additive that can cause kidney damage—a real-world echo of the TV drama “Breaking Bad,” in which a  chemistry teacher develops a sideline cooking methamphetamine.

Taiwan issued a recall on Sunday of the Sunright brand of tapioca balls, which are used in bubble tea, after trace amounts of maleic acid were found. The chemical is typically used in non-food products such as glue, paper, artificial resins, and antihistamines.

Taiwan’s Want China Times reported that the retired school teacher, whose surname is Wang, received $16,700 to $33,500 each time he taught factories in Taiwan, Vietnam, and Thailand to make the chemical.

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