Thu, Apr 14, 2016 - Page 8 News List

Progress in food safety protection

By Lin Yu-hsiung 林鈺雄

The Taipei District Court on March 25 ruled on the 2014 substandard cooking oil case involving Wei Chuan Foods Corp (味全食品), a subsidiary of Ting Hsin International Group (頂新集團). The court delivered a guilty verdict against Wei Chuan Foods, Ting Hsin senior executive Wei Ying-chun (魏應充) and several company employees.

In contrast, the Changhua District Court in November last year found Ting Hsin Group and Wei not guilty in a parallel case relating to substandard cooking oil products.

The Taipei court found the defendants guilty of defrauding consumers and adulterating food products. The court, not limiting its ruling to a key clause of the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation (食品安全衛生管理法) on “endangering or causing harm to public health,” said that the adulteration of food products already constitutes a violation of the law.

Wei’s lawyer released a statement criticizing the ruling, saying: “The Taipei District Court believes that even if a [food product] does not pose a risk to human health and adulteration occurred for economic reasons, there should still be a case for prosecution under the Food Safety Act. The court has exceeded its jurisdiction and infringed upon human rights.”

The Taipei District Court responded by saying: “If, for example, a manufacturer states on the label of its product ‘shark’s fin,’ but in fact it has used mung bean starch, would the consumer find that acceptable?”

From the adulterated sesame oil produced by Flavor Full Foods (富味鄉), to the colorant-containing low-cost oils supplied by Chang Chi Foodstuff Factory Co (大統長基) or the adulterated oil supplied by Ting Hsin Group, where does the crux of the problem lie when it comes to the Food Safety Act?

Put simply, the goal of legal protection and punishment in cases of adulterated food products and counterfeit products, at a minimum, includes the protection of three important consumer rights: financial, health and freedom of choice.

The protection of these three rights exist concurrently: It is not simply a question of preventing harm to the public’s health.

First, the financial rights of consumers and market competition must be protected. On the one hand, when low-cost palm oil is mixed with more expensive olive oil — or when inferior-quality rice is used to adulterate more expensive rice — this is cheating consumers out of their money through the use of false labeling designed to mislead the purchaser into believing they have bought a competitively priced, high-quality product.

On the other hand, when palm oil is passed off as olive oil and sold in the marketplace, a consumer, comparing this to an oil product accurately labeled as palm oil, as well as to genuine — and therefore more expensive — olive oil, would find the “counterfeit olive oil” more attractive. This constitutes unfair competition.

Therefore, adulterated products are not just cheating consumers out of their money, but they are detrimental to the proper operation of the market. This is an area often overlooked in judicial rulings on food safety cases in the nation. Although adulterating food products and selling counterfeit goods can be prosecuted as fraud, it does not capture the full extent of the crime. Put another way, if it is simply an issue of fraud, there would have been no need for Britain to enact the world’s first food safety legislation in 1860: the Adulteration of Food and Drink Act.

This story has been viewed 2434 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top