The Department of Health (DOH) announced on Saturday that the legislature has taken several steps to increase food safety.
The department said dozens of major changes to food-related regulations were made by lawmakers on Friday night, after the legislature burned the midnight oil to pass amendments to the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) on the last day of its plenary session.
The act has been overhauled and expanded from seven chapters to 10 chapters, with the number of articles increasing from 40 to 60, the health authority said, adding that food safety risk management, imported food management and food testing, inspection and control have been made the sole topics of several chapters.
The amendments have also boosted the health authorities’ power and held them clearly accountable for food safety monitoring, while keeping a short leash on the food industry by raising penalties against illicit activities, the department said.
Amendments worthy of note include those requiring domestic food manufacturers to establish a tracking system tracing the flow of the production and trade, including supply sources and buyers, and mandatory registering of food businesses of a certain type and beyond a certain scale.
Also, according to the amended Article 22, when a food additive is a mix of more than two kinds of raw chemicals, displaying the functional name of the food additive alone, without naming the raw chemicals used, is not acceptable.
An across-the-board penalty raise against illicit food-related activities has been proposed in the draft, as stated in the department’s statement.
The penalty currently stands at a maximum NT$15 million (US$500,150) for those who violate the regulations by adding expired materials or ingredients that have harmful effects on human health, or using excessive herbicides and veterinary drugs.
Contaminating food with fake or unauthorized additives would be subject to three years in prison, and if the breach results in a fatality, a jail sentence up to life imprisonment would be imposed.
Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration, with the assistance of local health departments, has sealed and destroyed 327.8 tonnes of maleic anhydride-modified industrial starch and industrial starch-based products and found that 768 stores failed to display newly required certifications as of Saturday night.
The Department of Health said it has been tracking the raw chemical and the modified starch in order to cut off the problematic source, and has since identified one wholesaler and three distributors of the raw chemical, nine manufacturers and 27 dealers of the modified industrial starch, as well as 14 industrial-based food product manufacturers.
Meanwhile, local health departments have started to perform inspections of food facilities such as fast-food chains, restaurants, night markets, supermarkets, traditional markets, convenience store chains and stalls selling starch-based food products to ensure regulatory compliance.
On the first day of the blanket inspections on Saturday, the Department of Health said that 7,720 out of the 8,488 inspected facilities passed inspections, with the remaining failing to publicly display the “maleic anhydride-modified industrial starch-free” certification as required, and 24 being asked to pull certain products off shelves.