Rice suppliers that fail to provide accurate labeling on the varieties used in their packaged rice must recall their products and improve their packaging within two weeks or face new punishments, the Agriculture and Food Agency said yesterday.
The agency made the statement after the Consumer Protection Commission (CPC) reported earlier in the day that only two out of 20 bags of rice sampled in a recent random inspection were found to be labeled correctly.
The CPC said it recently inspected 39 types of rice sold at supermarkets, traditional stalls and retail chains all over the country for quality control testing and to check labeling. Of the 39 products, 20 underwent further laboratory testing by the Food Industry Research and Development Institute to determine rice varieties.
Consumer ombudsmen said they were shocked to find their investigation showed that only two (10 percent) of the products had completely correct labels. Eight products had completely incorrect labels, while 10 had partially incorrect labels.
Many of the products claim on their packaging that they are Koshihikari rice, a high-quality strain of rice usually used to make sushi, or Tai-keng 9, a strain characterized by its tenderness.
However, many of the products only contained a small proportion of the strains they claimed to have or completely lacked the premium rice varieties, commission section chief Wu Cheng-hsueh (吳政學) said.
Wu said that when CPC officials confronted the manufacturers with the discrepancies, they offered “ridiculous excuses” such as “the rice was put into the wrong bins during processing,” “the original varieties were damaged during poor weather conditions and were replaced by planting other varieties” and “rice farms had grains of other varieties left over from previous harvests.”
“Although manufacturers are not required by law to label their products with the type of rice variety, if the labels on the packaging claim the product is Koshihikari rice, then [the information] should be accurate,” Wu said.
According to Article 11 of the Food Administration Act (糧食管理辦法), packaging must not mislead through inaccuracy or exaggeration.
The act states that authorities should order suppliers who violate the rules to rectify the situation before the expiration of a two-week deadline or face fines of between NT$15,000 and NT$60,000.
Additional reporting by CNA