Fri, Feb 01, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Ready-made meals more ready than you know: CPC

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

The "food of the future" could be coming to a convenience store near you, literally.

The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) warned yesterday that some factories supplying lunch boxes and packaged meals to convenience store chains have been fraudulently labeling the food to make products appear fresher than they really are.

Holding up a lunch box found during a surprise raid of a food factory on Jan. 24, council officer Hu Hua-tai (胡華泰) said the box was labeled as having been packaged on Jan. 25.

"They told us it is widespread industry practice," he said at a news conference.

Hu said suppliers faced high penalties if they failed to meet their daily orders, which gave them incentive to stockpile products and label them to order.

Council officers and local health bureau officials conducted a series of nationwide surprise inspections of factories that supply convenience stores with ready-meals or microwavable snacks.

Eleven suppliers were discovered to have been mislabeling the manufacturing dates on their food products, the council said. Sometimes the same batch of food would be labeled with different manufacturing dates, it said.

"The date of manufacture, and by extension the use-by date, becomes meaningless," Hu said.

The raids also turned up food items that had been packaged but were being stored unlabeled, a violation of food safety regulations.

A wide range of products at four major convenience chains were involved, including 7-Eleven, Family Mart, OK Mart and Hi-Life, Hu said.

Suppliers who violate the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) face fines ranging from NT$30,000 to NT$150,000 and have been ordered to end their fraudulent practices, the CPC said.

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