The Council of Agriculture (COA) yesterday said it would proposed an amendment to the Certified Agricultural Standard’s (CAS) regulations within a month following a spate of food scandals that has undermined the credibility of the food-quality label.
The council was asked to report before the legislature’s Economic Committee what measures it plans to take to improve the local food accreditation system after many products with the CAS label, or the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certification, were found to be unsafe.
According to the Agricultural Production and Certification Act (農產品生產及驗證管理法), the CAS label — estabablished by the council and administered by the CAS association — is given to manufacturers of agricultural food and processed agricultural food products if their products passed the standards set for its hygiene management, product health and safety, and packaging.
Council statistics show that as of last month, a total of 6,547 meat products, frozen food products, dairy and other agricultural products from 333 manufacturers carried the CAS label.
The association can withdraw a manufacturer’s CAS label if it fails to pass random inspections more than three times a year. It has removed the CAS label from 47 manufacturers over the past three years — including 564 products from 22 manufacturers this year.
“The CAS label serves as an ‘amulet’ to protect homemakers when they are shopping for daily groceries, but now the ‘amulet’ is damaged, and yet a manufacturer has to fail three random checks before it loses its qualification,” Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Yang Chiung-ying (楊瓊瓔) said. “So now, the CAS label is more like an ‘amulet’ for dishonest manufacturers.”
“If certification labels given by the government cannot assure the public that they are safe, and has even become the ‘amulet’ of manufacturers, I think the accreditation system has become meaningless,” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Ming-wen (陳明文) said.
Wang said that the council would amend the Agricultural Production and Certification Act to stipulate that if a food product fails to meet the requirements set by the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法), the local government can immediately impose a fine and withdraw its CAS qualification, meaning it does not have to wait for the maker to fail three inspections.
Wang added that while he could not predict how long it would take for the amendment to be enacted, he promised to present the draft amendment within a month.