Taiwan's revised food safety act passes its third reading

TAIPEI, Taiwan - An amendment to the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation, which not only increases fines for food companies involved in the production of food products with inappropriate additives and materials but also adds new regulations such as using electric receipts, holding regular food safety meetings and setting up food labs, passed a third reading at the Legislative Yuan yesterday.

Under the revised law, food manufacturers who sell adulterated products will not only face a seven-year prison sentence but also an NT$80 million (S$3.4 million) fine.

Previously such offences were punishable by a five-year prison sentence and an NT$8 million fine.

In addition, if adulterated food products are found to cause death, an individual can be issued with fines of NT$200 million and the punishment can be increased up to 10 times if issued to a company.

To maximise the deterrence as well as guarantee consumer rights, the revised law also allows authorities not only to issue fines but also seize illegal profits from companies if authorities deem that the violation has caused substantial damage to society.

Other than increased punishments, new regulatory procedures are also to be established after the amendment.

Firstly, all food manufacturers listed in Taiwan will need to set up their own food labs to inspect materials and products before they are put onto the market. In addition, food manufacturers, retailers, distributors, restaurants and vendors should start to use electric receipts to document all the procurement details. In this way, authorities will have a more thorough system to track each food product.

Last but not least, food safety reports will be produced by the Executive Yuan as well as local governments every three months to keep an eye on the food safety situation. The meetings should include not only government officials but also food experts as well as citizen representatives, according to the revised law.

Controversial Issues Solved

As the tainted oil scandal put food safety into the spotlight, citizens put their attention on the Legislative Yuan, hoping the government could amend the law to guarantee food standards. However, the amendments were deferred several times as lawmakers held different opinions on revisions proposed by the Executive Yuan.

After nine deliberation sessions, legislators finally reached an agreement and approved the amendments before the 9-in-1 elections, which are slated for the end of this month.

Regarding the new amendments, Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng said the lawmakers did their best to complete the food act, and he hopes related authorities as well as citizens can work together to rebuild Taiwan's reputation as "the kingdom of gourmet."

In addition, Health Minister Chiang Been-huang also said he feels satisfied with the result and guarantees the food products on the market now are safer compared to in the past.