Ensuring food safety requires more than just recalling tainted products, the Consumers’ Foundation said yesterday, calling for more thorough compensation mechanisms following a recent string of food-related scandals.
In one such scandal, I-Mei Food Co was found to be using expired raw materials to produce cream puffs. The company promptly apologized and said consumers who had purchased the products could request a complete refund.
However, the foundation said that refunds fail to properly compensate those who have already consumed the products.
Issuing a mea culpa without saying how many packages have been recalled and how many might still be on the market is not enough, it said. The foundation added that offers to donate money to consumer advocacy groups — as I-Mei recently suggested doing — could be seen as a kind of “hush money” if other consumer compensation measures are not put in place.
Instead, consumers should be compensated with funds raised by forcing business that have broken the law to relinquish the profits they have made from their contaminated items, the group said, an idea it first proposed after China’s melamine-laced milk scandal in 2008. However, the idea has received little support from the government.
Raising penalties to NT$6 million (US$200,000) or NT$10 million would not eliminate food safety transgressions because companies can earn tens of millions selling the tainted products and “it’s hard to chase down the main person in charge or to close down the factories,” foundation chief financial officer Terry Huang (黃怡騰) said.
“Problematic factories can also declare bankruptcy and re-open under a different name,” he said.
The foundation urged the government to push for legislation to hold offenders accountable by demanding they return all earnings made from tainted products. It also called on food businesses to establish compensation mechanisms.
In related news, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus yesterday said the government should play a more active role in addressing the public’s fears over food safety.
After a wide variety of starch products were found to be contaminated with maleic acid on May 13, the Department of Health launched a food safety program and inspections of every starch manufacturer and distributor nationwide. However, food vendors have had a hard time providing the certificates proving that their products are not tainted, DPP Legislator Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) told a press conference.
The caucus urged the government to set up a monitoring mechanism for food material manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers; a registration system for food additives; a mechanism to monitor imports; and a regulation to freeze the assets of manufacturers who provide illegal food additives and use the money to compensate consumers, Yeh said.
The starch scandal shows President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration has not learned from China’s mistakes, DPP Legislator Chiu Chih-wei (邱志偉) said, adding that Department of Health Minister Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) should be held accountable for the tainted food.
SPEEDING ELETRIC VEHICLES: Available without license requirements, the low-cost vehicles, especially if illicitly modified, can often reach a dangerous speed The government should crack down on illegal electric bicycles and scooters, the non-profit Consumers’ Foundation said on Friday, citing research on the potentially dangerous speed of the vehicles. Electric bicycles and lightweight electric scooters have gained popularity as they do not require registration and riders do not need licenses, the foundation said, adding that as many as 40 percent of them can reach speeds exceeding the legal limit of 25kph for non-licensed two-wheelers. Some consumers also purchased legal electric vehicles and modified them to reach higher speeds, it said. “If the government does not step up efforts to confiscate these
‘RELIABLE PARTNER’: US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar praised the ‘Taiwan model,’ saying that the nation brought its spirit to its COVID-19 response The first memorandum of understanding (MOU) on health cooperation between the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the US Department of Health and Human Services was yesterday signed at the Centers for Disease Control in Taipei. The memorandum was signed between the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the US, by AIT Director Brent Christensen and Taiwan Council for US Affairs Chairperson Jen-ni Yang (楊珍妮). US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) witnessed the signing of the memorandum, designed to enhance the nations’
Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) yesterday tweeted a welcome to Somaliland’s first representative to Taiwan, Mohamed Omar Hagi Mohamoud, who arrived on Friday. Mohamoud had “braved Chinese pressure” to take up his new post, Wu wrote. “The fact ‘sovereignty & friendship aren’t for sale’ deserves international recognition,” referring to a Somaliland media report earlier this month that Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi had rejected an offer by the Chinese government in exchange for ending its rapprochement with Taiwan. Wu also thanked the US National Security Council (NSC) for praising Taiwan-Somaliland ties. A council tweet on July 10 praised Taiwan
The US on Thursday removed a warning against all international travel, and placed Taiwan on a list of 13 destinations where the risk of COVID-19 transmission is “very low.” The list was compiled almost five months after the US Department of State issued a “global level 4 health advisory,” urging US citizens to avoid all international travel. On Thursday, the department announced that it was lifting the advisory, saying that “with health and safety conditions improving in some countries and potentially deteriorating in others, the Department is returning to our previous system of country-specific levels of travel advice.” The US