Fri, Apr 02, 2010 - Page 2 News List

Consumer commission fines tofu manufacturer

MISLEADING LABELS Some firms put false dates on food products that are not quite the date they were made to make up for the time it takes to distribute them

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Consumer Protection Commission (CPC) yesterday fined the manufacturer of the popular brand Pure Silken Tofu for producing what the commission called “future food” — food products inaccurately labeled with a manufacturing date set in the future.

On Mar. 23, CPC officials conducted a surprise inspection of eight food processing plants in six cities and counties after receiving an anonymous tip-off that some manufacturers put false information on their food product labels.

Officials discovered “future food” at Hua Shang Food Enterprise (華上食品), the manufacturer of Pure Silken Tofu, which is mainly sold through Costco stores.

“We saw the packets were labeled with manufacturing dates of Mar. 27, 2010, but we inspected the company on Mar. 23,” said Wu Cheng-hsueh (吳政學), a section chief at the commission.

“When a company labels the manufacturing date as four days ahead of the actual manufacturing date, it misleads customers into believing the tofu they purchase was actually made on the day they saw it on the supermarket shelves,” he said.

Wu said some firms used false manufacturing dates because it takes a few days for them to ship products to distributors and retailers, where they are then stocked, categorized and put on shelves.

“In order to present the foods as ‘freshly made,’ some companies resort to production of ‘future food,’” he said.

The commission instructed local health authorities to fine Hua Shang between NT$40,000 and NT$200,000 for violation of the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法).

Consumer Ombudsman Chang Chia-lin (張嘉麟) also pointed the finger at Costco, the main outlet for Pure Silken Tofu, and demanded that the chain explain whether it was aware that its suppliers were engaging in illegal practices.

In response, Hua Shang vice president Cheng An-he (成安和) said the company did not manufacture “future tofu.”

Cheng said the company’s foreign workers misunderstood instructions they were given and typed the incorrect labels. He said the incorrectly labeled products were not meant to be shipped to retailers, despite evidence to the contrary, obtained by the CPC.

Costco did not return calls seeking comment on the matter.

In other consumer-related news, the Consumers’ Foundation yesterday called for authorities to establish a set of standards governing LED sales after an investigation showed that a majority of the LED equipment for bicycles was substandard.

In January, the foundation inspected 15 types of LED bicycle lights on the market, including eight different headlights and seven rear lights. The lights ranged in price from about NT$100 to more than NT$1,000 and are sold in a variety of locations, from retail chains to bicycle gear shops.

“All but four of the LED lights inspected by the foundation had product labels on par with ISO6742-1 international standards,” Consumers’ Foundation chairman Hsieh Tien-jen (謝天仁) said. “Some of the equipment only had labels in English, while others lacked certain necessary information.”

The foundation said LED lights for bicycles varied in luminosity. In general, high luminosity is preferable at night, while glare can be prevented by keeping lights angled downwards rather than at eye level, Hsieh said.

The issue of inadequate standards governing bicycle headlights and rear lights caught the foundation’s attention as traffic accidents resulting from visibility problems for bicycles are on the rise.

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