Wed, Nov 19, 2014 - Page 1 News List

Lawmakers pass changes to food safety legislation

QUESTION OF LEGALITIES:One proposal that was not approved was one that would have scrapped a clause that makes corporations subject to Criminal Code fines

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers hold placards on the floor of the Legislative Yuan after passing amendments to the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Chu Pei-hsiung, Taipei Times

After nine cross-party negotiations, lawmakers yesterday passed amendments to the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation (食品安全衛生管理法), after resolving a dispute over a clause proposed by the Ministry of Justice that the Judicial Yuan said would “decriminalize legal entities.”

While there were some last-minute negotiations before yesterday’s vote, the decisive talks took place on Monday, during which a conclusion was reached not to support the Executive Yuan’s controversial proposal to scrap the clause that makes legal entities, such as corporations, subject to fines pursuant to the Criminal Code.

Revisions or additions to 20 articles of the Act passed after yesterday’s third reading.

Among the changes are making the Executive Yuan’s food safety meeting — which had been organized to respond on an emergency basis to specific crises — a standing meeting that has to regularly report to the Legislative Yuan; requiring listed corporations and large food companies to set up their own laboratories; requiring food manufacturers to use electronic receipts to make tracing the manufacturing process easier; and requiring food factories to have a license distinct from any licenses for non-food production at the same factory or at the same address.

Food labeling regulations were also revised to require the labeling of food compound ingredients, if more than two are used, in order from the highest to the lowest quantity, and food companies that previously only listed their information on product labels must now provide information about the manufacturer or importer to health authorities, to make it easier to conduct inspections.

The one proposed clause that was not approved was one by the justice ministry to scrap the regulation covering the imposition of criminal fines upon legal entities after a court case so that the ministry could immediately impose administrative penalties.

Instead, the approved amendments include one that sets out a clear separation of administrative penalties and the confiscation or the recovery of illegal earnings, stipulating that the latter must not be considered part of the former and thereby superseded by the imposition of criminal fines.

At present, administrative penalties imposed on a company found to have contravened the food safety and sanitation law, which are usually heftier, can be superseded by criminal fines because criminal law is given priority and the government follows the principle that single acts should not be punished twice.

However, lawmakers yesterday also increased both the administrative penalties and criminal fines for contravening the act. Depending on the severity of the violation, individuals can be fined between NT$8 million and NT$200 million (US$260,400 and US$6.51 million) and legal entities between NT$80 million and NT$2 billion, while the legal entities can also be subject to a maximum administrative penalty of NT$200 million.

As the floor meeting neared its end, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers walked to the front of the chamber and raised placards with slogans insinuating that their Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) colleagues had delayed the legislative process by boycotting the proposed amendments.

An irritated DPP Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇), who had worked on drafting the amendments, confronted KMT caucus whip Alex Fai (費鴻泰), criticizing the KMT for “talking nonsense” and making false accusations.

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