Tue, Jul 24, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Consumers' Foundation recruits `volunteer brigade'

INSPECTOR GADGETS The foundation announced that 19 volunteers had been trained to test products and services and report on those they felt were below par

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Consumers' Foundation yesterday announced the formation of a "volunteer brigade" of consumers who will seek out and report substandard or harmful foods, cosmetics, appliances and medicines.

"In time, we hope to have trained members of the consumer brigade all over the country. These 19 members are just the beginning," foundation chairman Cheng Hung-jen (程宏仁) told a press conference.

In addition to reporting substandard goods, volunteers will be given specific tasks such as buying samples of produce at specific locations, he said.

Even though the position is unpaid, those who participated in the first three-day workshop to become qualified members of the consumer brigade said that they were glad to have the opportunity to strike back at companies that do not meet standards.

Hualien organic farmer Chao Tzu-lun (趙子崙) said at the press conference that he was concerned food safety standards in rural Taitung were more lax than in other parts of the country.

"We do not have the same resources as Taipei or other big cities, so we have to rely on ourselves," he said. "I hope that my experience as a farmer will help when it comes to investigating potentially harmful foods."

Sun Shio-chen (孫秀珍) said she decided to join the brigade after being burned by substandard services in the past.

"I bought a subscription to an anti-viral software program for my home business computer," Sun said. "When the product did not work the company would not even allow me to cancel my subscription, let alone give me my money back."

"That's when I realized that, as an individual, I had no power against the corporations," she added. "That's why I am joining this group."

"The power of the government is limited," said former Bureau of Food Safety chief Hsia Tung-ming (蕭東銘). "There are only 180 staff members to oversee all food safety issues. Inevitably, there are gaps that need to be filled by a vigilant public."

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