Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) and academics yesterday questioned the exclusion of some amendments to the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) during the current legislative session.
Tien, who took part in a press conference in Taipei along with experts in medicine, chemistry, toxicology and agronomy, said that some of the amendments had not been scheduled for review in today’s sitting discussion of the legislature that could see bill passing its second and third readings before the end of the session.
Several new amendments had been proposed in the wake of a string of food scares in the past six months, even though the law had just been amended in the middle of last year, Tien said.
“A total of 50 amendments were proposed this time and the Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee wanted the proposals sent for negotiation, but the Proceeding Committee on Tuesday last week — presided over by Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT] Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) — failed to schedule it for floor discussion, a delay that could mean the amendments will not be passed before the end of the session,” she said.
“There was no reasonable doubt” that the omission was the result of pressure from food companies because the proposed amendments, including a suggestion to change of the act to “the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation” (食品安全衛生管理法), would put food companies on a shorter leash, Tien said.
“Not only would companies using compound additives, such as the clouding agent that was illegally mixed with plasticizers and copper chlorophyll that was used to adulterate oil, be required to file product registration with the competent authority 14 years after the previous requirement was annulled in 2000, new regulations governing genetically modified [GM] foodstuffs are also included,” she said.
Several physicians and academics who have been pressing for stricter legislation on food safety endorsed Tien’s call.
Yen Tsung-hai (顏宗海), a nephrology specialist at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Linkou District (林口), said the law is needed to protect food safety and people’s health against greedy businesspeople and corporations.
“When I attend patients with kidney problems and ask about their eating habits, I often think that they could probably have avoided the disease if not for the food they consumed,” Yen said.
National Taiwan University agronomy professor Warren Kuo (郭華仁) said although he was not perfectly satisfied with the amendments, they would be a step forward because they would require GM ingredients to be labeled with a higher threshold and GM food raw materials to be risk-assessed before being allowed to be used.
The proposed amendments would also require importers of GM foodstuffs and products to establish a tracer system.
The KMT caucus rebuffed allegations that it was trying to weaken the reform effort. It said it had agreed to the DPP placing the bill on the discussion agenda, but it was the DPP who failed to include the bill in its final proposal.
The KMT said that if there was a consensus for the passage, the bill could be discussed in an extra legislative session.