Sun, Sep 07, 2014 - Page 1 News List

Consumers’ Foundation bastes minister, FDA

By Chen Ping-hung and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Consumers’ Foundation representatives criticize the Ministry of Welfare and Health over the ongoing tainted oil scandal at a press conference in Taipei yesterday, calling for the minister and the head of the Food and Drug Administration to step down.

Photo: CNA

The Consumers’ Foundation yesterday accused President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration of turning a blind eye toward business owners in the edible oil industry, adding that Minister of Health and Welfare Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director-General Yeh Ming-kung (葉明功) should resign if the ministry continues to be lax in monitoring the industry.

The foundation’s Consumer Reports Magazine publisher Chen Chih-yi (陳智義) said current regulations stated that one crime does not merit multiple punitive measures, with criminal cases taking precedence over all other cases. As such, Chen, citing as an example the previous adulterated oil scandal implicating Chang Chi Foodstuff Factory Co (大統長基), said that though the ministry’s Administrative Appeal Committee imposed a NT$1.85 billion (US$61.7 million) fine for the administrative violation, the case was brought to court as a criminal offense, resulting in the company receiving just NT$38 million in fines and the ministry canceling its NT$1.85 billion fine, citing the principle of double jeopardy.

Consumers’ Foundation chairman Mark Chang (張智剛) asked whether edible oils were included in the FDA’s “Notice for food industry owners on items for inspection and least amount of inspection time,” or whether that applied only to aquaculture, meats and dairy products, food products holding additives and that were imported, and special nutrition products that have previously obtained inspection permits.

“Oils are an important part of daily consumption and are present in almost everything we eat,” Chang said, adding that the foundation has since last year — following Chang Chi’s adulterated oil scandal — called for certain items to be included in the inspections.

“Both Yeh and Chiu should step down if the situation continues to worsen and the ministry fails to step up inspection and control,” he added.

Among the firms affected in the latest scandal are Ve Wong Corp (味王) and the Gourmet Master Co (美食達人), which owns cafe and bakery chain 85°C (85度C).

This has strongly eroded consumers’ faith in food security, the foundation said.

Chang added that the involvement of Wei Chuan Foods Corp (味全食品工業) in both the Chang Chi adulterated oil scandal last year and the latest tainted oil scandal showed that the penalty system in the judiciary was no longer a deterrent for companies.

“Companies will continue as they have done because fines for criminal offenses are always lower than those for administrative offenses and the current regulations states that criminal charges takes precedence in legal procedure,” Chen said.

This hurts the civil servants who are tackling the matter and it is causing the power of the public and the safety of consumers to wither at their roots, because companies are likely to get only a slap on the wrist for their wrongdoings, Chen said.

The foundation called on the government to come up with a solution to the judicial penalties, adding that unless the government emphasizes penalties, its efforts to fight fake products are meaningless.

Chen said that in the Chang Chi case, the settlement called on the companies to reimburse both the downstream stores and the employees who were dismissed, but did not cover consumers.

The courts must help consumers instead of letting perpetrators of such incidents walk out on bail for a mere NT$50,000, Chen said.

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