The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) may have denied accusations that it hampered efforts to amend the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法), but the Consumers’ Foundation said yesterday that a survey revealed that most KMT lawmakers had refused to voice support for the legislation.
Amendments to the law drawn up in the wake of a string of food scandals failed to complete the necessary second and third readings to be passed before the legislative session adjourned on Tuesday for a six-week recess.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the KMT have been blaming each other for blocking the amendments from making it onto the agenda for floor discussion before the session ended.
The KMT said DPP Legislator Yu Mei-nu’s (尤美女) “unprecedented” proposal to remove the burden of proof from consumers seeking compensation for damages to their health for disrupting negotiations and preventing the amendments from passing.
However, at a press conference on Monday held by DPP Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) and several others to press for passage of the amendments, Tien made it clear that Yu’s proposal was not the main problem delaying the amendments from being scheduled for floor discussion because Yu’s controversial paragraph could have been submitted to a show of hands.
She said she suspected pressure from food manufacturers had caused the amendments to be left out in the cold.
The foundation sent out a questionnaire on Wednesday to 112 of the 113 legislators asking for their opinions on chances of passing the amendments and convening an extra legislative session to pass them.
The foundation said that 60 lawmakers, including all 40 DPP legislators, 16 KMT and four others, responded positively to both questions, with two more KMT lawmakers saying they would agree to place the amendments at the top of the next session’s agenda.
Of the 50 lawmakers who did not respond to the questionnaire, 47 were KMT members.
A Council for Economic Planning and Development official on Wednesday said that a proposed amendment mandating transparency of food ingredients and a full disclosure on food packaging of manufacturing information would create unnecessary trade barriers. The official added that the proposals had drawn complaints from some foreign investors.
Retail giant Costco has voiced concern over the proposed requirement for full disclosure on the food production plant, instead of just the importing company, while Coca-Cola Co said it was worried it would have to reveal its products’ recipes.
In a statement released on Thursday, the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei said its members were “troubled by several recent developments regarding the Act Governing Food Sanitation,” especially the proposed requirements mentioned above. “[If] the Law remains in its current form, it would affect the operations of both international and local Taiwan food companies and could lead to consumers facing higher prices and/or less choice,” the statement said.