Consumer group questions food safety regulations

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Sun, Sep 01, 2013 - Page 3

The Consumers’ Foundation says the nation’s food monitoring has descended into anarchy, citing Top Pot Bakery’s false advertising and Chyuan Shun Food Enterprise Co’s false labeling, as examples of the trend.

After the shock of Top Pot Bakery’s scandal over using artificial flavorings while touting its “all-natural” products, yet another example surfaced with a rice brand, famous for its self-claimed locally grown rice and taking the third-largest market share, found to have its domestically grown rice mixed with cheaper imported rice.

Both the bakery and the food firm have been punished by fines in accordance with the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) and the Food Administration Act (糧食管理法), respectively.

However, the NT$180,000 fine levied on the bakery and the NT$200,000 fine on the packaged rice manufacturer are insignificant to the companies enjoying annual revenues exceeding NT$600 million (US$ 20 million) and NT$1 billion, the foundation said.

The foundation on Friday questioned the inapplicability of the Fair Trade Act (公平交易法) in both cases, which would impose a maximum penalty of NT$25 million, 125 times more than the NT$200,000 fine for false advertising.

The punishments indicate the government is giving the two food acts higher priority than the Fair Trade Act, but there is no reason to do so, said the group, adding the punishment imposed by the food safety acts are so light that they fail to constitute an effective deterrent to misconduct by companies packaging the nation’s food.

“The Act Governing Food Sanitation and the Fair Trade Act can both be applied in the bakery’s case of false advertising. It is simply an issue of overlapping laws,” Foundation’s Consumer Reports Magazine publisher Chen Chih-yi (陳智義) said.

The group said the rice enterprise has been mislabeling Taiwanese rice as Vietnamese rice and that there is no provision of the Food Administration Act governing the counterfeiting problem.

Rather, the group says that it is the Act Governing Food Sanitation, with a provision on counterfeited or adulterated food products, that should be applied in the rice enterprise’s case.

The act states that those committing the counterfeiting or adulterating will be fined between NT$60,000 and NT$15 million and “in severe circumstances, the enterprise may be ordered to terminate business, suspend business for a certain period of time, or lose the company registration.”

According to the Agriculture and Food Agency, the rice company has been caught with false labeling and other violations 18 other times in two years.