Chang Chi Foodstuff Factory Co (大統長基) and Flavor Full Food Inc (富味鄉) will receive minimum fines of NT$1.85 billion (US$63 million) and NT$460 million respectively, as punishments for food adulteration.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare gathered officials from local health authorities, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Finance, and law and accounting specialists yesterday morning to set the level of the financial penalties.
Previous fines levied on the companies had fallen well short of public demands, with legislators and consumer watchdogs calling for stiffer penalties, even after Chang Chi was handed a NT$28 million penalty for mislabeling, food adulteration and avoidance of government inspections.
In response to the widespread criticism, the meeting concluded that Article 44, Paragraph 2 of the recently amended Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) would be invoked. It stipulates that those who are “deemed severe violators by the central competent authority may be sanctioned within the scope of the benefit gained.”
The Administrative Penalty Act (行政罰法) is also appealed to, which says that if the benefit gained by unlawful practices “exceeds the maximum statutory amount of fine, the fine may be increased to the extent appropriate within the scope of the benefit gained, regardless of the statutory limitation of the maximum fine.”
“It has been estimated that Flavor Full will receive a fine of at least NT$460 million for unlawful acts over the past two years. Chang Chi will be fined NT$1.85 billion for its illicit practices over the past seven years,” Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Deputy Director-General Wu Hsiu-ying (吳秀英) said.
FDA official Huang Wen-kwei (黃文魁) added that the fines matched the amount of profit generated by illegal practices.
Therefore, “the announced amounts are not the final figures, since investigations are still ongoing and the fines imposed might be further raised according to the result of investigations,” Huang said.
When asked whether the large fines could be placed in a food safety protection fund, Wu replied that this was not discussed at the meeting, and since the fund has not yet been established, “for now the fines would go either to local governments or the central government, depending on which authority had executed the sanction,” Huang said.