Amendment to set up reparation scheme for food safety incidents

The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Draft revisions to the Food Sanitation Act will go to the Legislative Yuan for screening next week, and will feature the introduction of regulations which would establish food safety funds to better safeguard the interests of local consumers, according to informed sources.

A panel discussion at the 2013 National Food Safety Meeting yesterday afternoon focused on how consumers could better be compensated if they are negatively affected by food products with mislabeled ingredients or tainted with illegal additives.

Chairing the panel, Professor Huang Li of National Chengchi University said that consumers have been put at a disadvantage when involved in food safety incidents. For instance, they are required to show invoices to claim compensation. “This means ‘no invoice, no compensation,’ in sharp contrast to big-name vendors, who are able to retrieve tens of millions of New Taiwan dollars in compensation if they suffer losses from selling falsified food products,” Huang said.

A representative of the Consumers’ Foundation at the panel discussion suggested that the government should impose large sum punitive fines on firms which violate the Food Sanitation Act so that consumers can enjoy more compensation. Meanwhile, Tsai Hong-chih, chairman of the Changhua Medical Alliance for Public Affairs, said that a significant portion of proposed food safety funds should be used to encourage locals to report violations of the Food Sanitation Act, with cash prizes given to informants to be boosted to 30 to 50 percent of fines collected.

For her part, the deputy director of the Food & Drug Administration under the Ministry of Health and Welfare said at the same occasion that the proposed food safety funds could be sourced from improper benefits gained by violators of the Food Sanitation Act, administrative fines on the violators, and donations from all sources.

But the question of whether food safety funds should be organized under the direct jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health and Welfare or under local city and county governments remains to be resolved in debate between the central and local governments.

In addition to the new regulations governing the establishment of food safety funds, the draft revisions to the Food Sanitation Act also hike fines on those who taint their foods with illegal additives or add false ingredients to NT$50 million, and boosts criminal punishments to jail terms of five years.