Thu, Apr 09, 2015 - Page 3 News List

FDA backs down on promise

PROCRASTINATING?The agency’s draft law on requirements for Japanese food imports was supposed to be published yesterday, with the goal of being promulgated in June

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday broke a pledge it made on March 25 to publish a draft regulation — requiring importers of Japanese food products to obtain an official country-of-origin certificate and a radiation assessment report — within two weeks, saying it is still undergoing administrative processing.

At a press conference in Taipei yesterday morning to release details on the agency’s inspections of imported goods last year, FDA Food Safety Division Director Pan Jyh-quan (潘志寬) said the agency was still communicating with Japan on the matter, and acknowledged the difficulty of promulgating and implementing the draft regulation by the promised deadline.

“The agency respects extemporaneous motions passed by lawmakers, but previous experience indicates that we must be realistic. If there still is consultation work to be done, then we shall continue to communicate with interested parties,” Pan said.

Pan was referring to an impromptu motion passed by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) at a meeting of the legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee on March 25, demanding that the FDA publish and promulgate the draft regulation within two weeks.

If passed, the draft regulation would require importers of nine categories of Japanese food items — fresh vegetables and fruit; frozen vegetables and fruit; fresh aquatic products; frozen aquatic products; baby formula; dairy products; seaweed; tea leaves; and drinking water — to provide both a country-of-origin certificate and a radiation assessment report issued by the Japanese government.

The FDA has been criticized for procrastinating over implementing the regulation, as it started seeking public opinion over the proposal in late October last year, a process that usually takes just two months.

On March 25, FDA Director-General Chiang Yu-mei (姜郁美) promised to publish the draft regulation by yesterday so that it could take effect in June.

After being pressed by lawmakers at a separate committee meeting on Monday last week, Chiang pledged to bring the regulation into effect the day it was promulgated, which was supposed to be yesterday.

Chiang could not be reached for comment by press time, but a report published by the Chinese-language United Daily News earlier yesterday quoted Chiang as saying the draft regulation is to be published tomorrow at the earliest.

Accusing the FDA of trampling on legislative motions, Lin said she would boycott the agency for as long as it takes.

“[Legislative Speaker] Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) also said today [Wednesday] during his ongoing visit to Japan that the Taiwanese government will base its decision regarding whether to lift its import ban on food products from five Japanese prefectures near the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant on scientific techniques and test results,” Lin said.

Lin said the government was too cowardly to directly request Japan to carry out the same processes as it does for other countries — issuing country-of-origin certificates and radiation assessment reports for its foodstuffs.

“Is our government being colonized by Japan or what?” she added.

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