Thu, Nov 20, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Academic urges schools to tackle poor food awareness

Staff writer, with CNA

While the passage of an amendment aimed at ensuring food safety has been hailed, a chemistry academic said earlier this week that Taiwan’s problems with food safety cannot be rooted out unless people start being given the correct information about food from a young age.

National Taiwan Normal University chemistry professor Wu Chia-cheng (吳家誠) called for “food education” classes to be added to elementary-school curricula, saying that the younger generation have relatively weak senses of smell and taste as they eat so much processed food.

Some young people have scant knowledge of what constitutes fresh and nutritious food, Wu said. Such classes would give children the ability to “instinctively reject excessively processed foods that are absolutely no good for them.”

The former secretary-general of the Consumers Foundation also said that although the legislature passed an amendment to the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation (食品安全衛生管理法), there are several small enforcement loopholes in the act that still need to be sealed.

For example, the act fails to clearly define what it means by “major incidents.” History shows that in any so-called “major food safety incident,” the consumers involved often lose resulting class-action lawsuits when attempting to seek compensation, Wu said.

Moreover, it should be law that staples — such as cooking oil, tea, sugar, salt, milk formula powder, meat and rice — cannot be mixed with other ingredients when they are sold as raw ingredients, but should be graded by quality, Wu said.

Food items with scented flavoring should be labeled with information outlining what chemicals have been added, he added.

Under the revised law, companies found guilty of causing harm to public health can face up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to NT$80 million (US$2.6 million), rising to NT$200 million if their activities result in death.

Legal entities are subject to a fine of up to NT$2 billion if they are found to have caused death by using adulterated or falsified ingredients in their food products.

To maximize deterrence, the amendment to the act draws a distinction between a fine and the seizure of business profits obtained through illegal means, which allows the authorities to impose both sanctions concurrently.

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