60 percent of 'organic' food in stores not genuine: foundation
By Flor Wang, CNA
September 1, 2009, 5:12 pm TWN
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Some 60 percent of the food sold in Taiwan's retail shops or supermarkets as organic is not genuine, the non-profit Consumers' Foundation reported Tuesday.
Speaking at a news conference, Consumers' Foundation Chairman Hsieh Tian-jen said although regulations were introduced Aug. 1 to fine suppliers of organic farm produce NT$60,000 (US$1,829) to NT$300,000 for inadequate labeling, a random investigation by the foundation found the problem still exists.
According to Hsieh, six out of 10 randomly selected shops were found to be selling 16 items of fake organic goods that were produced at home and abroad. The products were being sold at outlets of major supermarkets and franchise chains, such as a.mart, City Super, Li-Ruhn Company, Santacruz, Green Village, and Organic House, he said.
Hsieh urged consumers to be cautious when purchasing locally grown or imported products touted as organic, since there is no official standard certification to identify genuine organic food.
"The authorities should devise a single certification system for local and imported products to allow the public make informed food choices," he suggested.
Locally grown organic food items carry a "CAS" high quality stamp and the label of the legitimate institution that issued the certification, he noted.
"However, some products sold as organic at a few outlets of the six brands do not carry either the stamp or the label," he added.
Since the implementation of the new regulations, nine companies have been accredited to certify organic farm produce and processed agricultural items.
Hsieh criticized the shops as trying to chalk up greater profits by sticking an "organic" label on products that do not really meet organic standards.
In addition, Hsieh called on the government to provide the public with transparent information about acceptable levels of chemical residue on agricultural products in different countries.
For instance, he noted, Taiwan demands that chemical residue on organic farm produce must be zero percent, while the United States allows up to 5 percent.
The Council of Agriculture (COA) allows imports of certified organic farm produce and processed agricultural goods from 18 countries and areas, including Britain, France, the United States, Spain and Sweden.
Imports of certified organic livestock and processed products from Australia, New Zealand and the United States are also allowed in Taiwan.
Organic food promoters said that 70 percent of organic farm produce and processed agricultural goods sold at local shops are imported, and only 30 percent are locally produced.
Some 0.3 percent of the arable land in Taiwan is now used to grow organic produce, according to COA statistics.