Group takes New Year food catalogs to task

BUYERS BEWARE::Consumers purchasing dishes to eat at home on Lunar New Year’s Eve may be mistaken in believing that they were produced by leading chefs

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Sat, Jan 19, 2013 - Page 3

The Consumers’ Foundation yesterday reminded shoppers to pay attention to catalogs for Lunar New Year’s Eve dinner dishes, as a survey it conducted showed that most did not provide sufficient information about the manufacturer, product sources or refunds, as required.

The Lunar New Year holiday this year starts on Feb. 9 and runs through Feb. 17. This coming lunar year will be the Year of the Snake in the Chinese zodiac.

In recent years, many people have chosen to order Lunar New Year’s Eve dinner dishes in advance and have them delivered to enjoy at home. The foundation said it conducted a survey last month on nine catalogs from four major convenience stores, three major wholesale stores and two major supermarkets to examine whether information on the dishes and meals was sufficient to protect consumers’ rights.

The survey found that while many of the dishes were labeled as having been made in collaboration with famous chefs or hotel restaurants, only one of the nine catalogs said which food manufacturing company had been commissioned to make the dishes, the foundation said.

The other eight catalogs lacked such information, possibly causing consumers to believe that the ordered dishes were actually made by a famous chef’s restaurant, when in fact they were produced by catering firms, the foundation said.

The survey also showed that four catalogs failed to cite the source of beef products, as required by the Department of Health (DOH).

Starting on Sep. 12 last year, all beef retailers, as well as restaurants and food vendors that use beef, are required to label the source of their beef to allow consumers to choose whether they wanted to purchase beef products that may contain ractopamine residues.

Five catalogs also failed to meet obligations to inform consumers of their refund rights within seven days of purchase, as required by the Consumer Protection Act (消費者保護法), the foundation said.

The foundation says consumers should carefully note product information, including cooking methods, expiry dates, manufacturers, ingredients, nutritional facts and refund policies before purchasing dishes and check whether the package is intact when receiving the product, to avoid disappointment on Lunar New Year’s Eve.