With food safety once again making headlines, the Executive Yuan recently passed a draft amendment to the Consumer Protection Act (消費者保護法) requiring that consumer protection groups release relevant information about tests performed on food, as well as inform the business operators involved of the results of any testing — a change that the Consumers’ Foundation says is intended to circumscribe its rights of inspection.
At a time when the scandal over maleic acid-tainted starch in food products has yet to end, two food giants — Uni-President Enterprises Corp and AGV Products Corp — are embroiled in another scandal over their alleged use of substandard raw ingredients.
“The string of scandals not only shows the absence of quality management on the manufacturers’ part, it also reveals the government’s incompetence in monitoring the food industry,” the consumer watchdog said yesterday.
To make matters worse, Chen Chih-yi (陳智義), publisher of the foundation’s Consumer Reports Magazine, said the amendment to the Consumer Protection Act passed by the Executive Yuan on May 23 demands that consumer protection groups “publicize information about the sampling methods and the surrounding environment of the sampling process, the testing equipment, and the testing method and procedure” and “to inform the business operators involved” about the results.
Chen questioned the legitimacy of this proposal, saying that the health authorities themselves fail to provide all the details as required by the proposed amendment.
“Requiring the foundation to inform businesses involved is another unreasonable move,” said Chen, emphasizing that the foundation has always released its test results and relevant information to the general public, which includes the businesses community.
“Are they paying taxes to us? Why are we obliged to report to them?” foundation board member Hsieh Tien-jen (謝天仁) said.
Hsieh lambasted the amendment, asking whether it is intended to “allow businesses to shun their responsibility by taking preemptive countermeasures.”
“Article 4 of the act states that ‘business operators shall pay attention to the health and safety of consumers, and shall explain to the consumers the methods of use for goods and services.’ Is it not food companies’ responsibility to inspect their own products and ensure food safety?” Hsieh said.
“The government has failed to make them comply with the regulation and now it is even doing their bidding by encroaching on watchdogs’ rights to carry out inspections,” he said.
The foundation called on the government to stand by consumers and said it would do all it can to block the passage of the amendment in the legislature.