Lawmakers criticized the petty sums of compensation a district court had awarded to consumers and urged health authorities to set up a mechanism that would return the profits made by any manufacturer involved in food doctoring.
The New Taipei City (新北市) District Court ruling ordered companies that used plasticizers to pay the sum of NT$1.27 million (US$43,100) in compensation to a group of consumers who filed a lawsuit against the companies, which was was “well below what was expected by the society,” lawmakers said.
During a meeting of the legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee yesterday, Minister of Health and Welfare Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) said the ministry also felt “sorry” about the decision made by the court.
A Judicial Yuan official, whose presence at the plenary session was requested by the committee, said the Judicial Yuan could not comment on the case because of judicial independence.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) said that the court had made the ruling based on the information provided by the Health Promotion Administration stating that “plasticizers DEHP and DINP would be excreted from human body through metabolism in a short period of time” and that “DEHP has low acute toxicity” that would negatively impact immune, nervous and endocrine systems only “under long-term exposure of a large amount of the substance.”
However, “no one would consume a large amount of DEHP at one time anyway, unless commit ting suicide,” National Taiwan University Institute of Occupational Medicine and Industrial Hygiene professor Wu Kuen-yuh (吳焜裕) said.
Wu was invited to comment on the issue at the plenary session. He wrote an opinion piece for the Chinese- language Apple Daily published on Friday last week, calling the ruling one “against the professionalism of toxicology.”
In the piece he said that if toxic substances are as simple as people visiting resorts without leaving garbage behind, “then there is no need for toxicology.”
“Ninety percent of DEHP can be excreted from the body within three days, but when the chemical enters the circulation system, it can initiate various biological reactions [through metabolism] and it is in this process that damages are done,” Wu wrote.
Chiu said the discussions and preparations are well under way for a government-initiated mechanism that would ensure companies do not profit from food scamming.
Tien also proposed to apply Article 44 of the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) to recent cases, including the
plasticizer-using companies, Top Pot Bakery and Chang-chi Foodstuff Factory. The article stipulates that “those in violation of [the act] whose benefit exceeds the maximum statutory fine and are deemed severe violators… may be sanctioned within the scope of the benefit gained.”