Punishment for unlawful food seller is too light: CF

By Joy Lee, The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The government should make regulatory punishments against unlawful food sellers more severe in order to prevent the recurrence of food safety issues, the Consumers’ Foundation (CF) said yesterday.

CF Chairman Mark Chang (張智剛) said a number of serious food safety scandals have been uncovered through people reporting the issue instead of through government inspection.

Top Pot Bakery was recently fined NT$180,000 for the addition of artificial essences into the bakery’s bread while claiming it uses only natural ingredients. Chang said this fine is actually nothing for a company that makes NT$600 million annually.

“The authority could have used the Fair Trade Act’s section on misleading advertising, which comes with a fine ranging between NT$50,000 and NT$25 million,” said Chang, “but the official chose to use the Act Governing Food Sanitation, which has a lighter punishment.” The CF’s lawyer, Chen Chi-yi (陳智義) said it is true that another firm, Sunsuivi, which was accused recently of selling rice with labels boasting that the product was home grown when in fact it was poor-quality rice imported from Vietnam, was fined NT$200,000 for violating the Food Administration Act, but noted that the company has violated regulations 18 times in the past two years with no fines or punishments ever being levied by relevant authorities.

“The light punishment is the reason why the firm did not attempt to improve and even repeated its same unlawful actions,” said Chen.

“Sunsuivi should be punished according to the Act Governing Food Sanitation, which would bring a maximum fine of NT$15 million,” Chen said. “That would make the company understand how serious the result could be for violating regulations.”

CF Secretary-General Lei Li-fen (雷立芬) said that the current regulations cannot allow the government to efficiently monitor or manage all food sellers, which gives those companies a chance to find a loophole and in turn leads to food safety issues.

The CF said that the government should come up with effective regulations and be more active in inspecting food sellers, which will better protect consumers from being harmed by illegal products.

The Agriculture and Food Agency (AFA) said on Thursday that an amendment to the Food Administration Act will be proposed to raise the maximum fine to NT$3 million for food sellers who put false or misleading labels on food products.