Sat, Dec 21, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Watchdog criticizes food catalogs

NEW YEAR WARNING:The Consumers’ Foundation said people should read catalogs and look for information on refunds, ingredients, manufacturers and the food’s origin

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

A consumers’ rights group said yesterday that none of the catalogs it reviewed had scored perfectly in terms of the information they provided to customers looking to preorder ready-made Lunar New Year meals

Nineteen catalogs for the packages were examined by the Consumers’ Foundation, and all of them were found to be incomplete in terms of information for the protection of consumer rights, the foundation said yesterday.

Convenience stores, supermarkets, retailers and hotels nationwide have entered the crowded market for Lunar New Year meals, as more families are looking to avoid the toil of preparing feasts and instead choosing to purchase ready-made dishes.

Lunar New Year’s eve falls on Jan. 30 next year.

The foundation found that the catalogs, obtained from four major convenience store chains, four mass retailers, two supermarkets and nine restaurants and hotels, all flunked their advertisement and label examination.

Eight indicators were examined by the foundation: the disclosure of whether the dishes are commissioned to other food manufacturers and, if so, the naming of the manufacturer; whether clauses that violate consumers’ rights are included; ingredient labels; quantity and calorie indicators; country of origin labeling for beef and refund information.

None of the 19 samples scored perfectly, the group said.

“Stores, as opposed to restaurants and hotels which are making the dishes themselves, should write the information on whether the food products they sell are manufactured by other manufacturers and, if they are, the names of the manufacturers should be included,” foundation secretary-general Lei Li-fen (雷立芬) said.

While some of the convenience stores and retailers are explicit on their commissioning, none have the names of the manufacturers on the catalogs, Lei said.

“Without the information, we are forced to suspect that the dishes might all come from the same manufacturer, in the same way that during the recent edible oil scandal the brand-name products were all using substandard oil from one manufacturer,” Lei said.

Consumers should also be aware that certain clauses stipulated in the catalogs may not comply with the existing regulations, the consumer watchdog said.

“Image for reference only” or provisions claiming to reserve the right to change or terminate the discount, for example, are clauses that cannot be included in the catalogs according to a directive issued in 2007, Lei said.

However, the directives have been in force since 2007 without any penalties having been levied, foundation chairman Mark Chang (張智剛) said.

“Far Eastern A-Mart (愛買) and Carrefour are two retailers that we had singled out last time for [the said problem], but they are among the violators again this time. The authority is guilty of dereliction of duty in its failing to correct the practices,” he said.

The foundation added that 77 percent of the catalogs failed to indicate the country of origin for dishes that contained beef as required by the amended Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法), and 68 percent did not contain refund information.

“Consumers should choose catalogs with clear labeling, pay attention to the clauses and keep the catalogs for possible disputes when placing the orders,” Chang said.

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