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July 23, 2017

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Cabinet passes amendment to food safety law

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Executive Yuan yesterday passed an amendment to the Act Governing Food Sanitation that introduces stricter food quality control management, raises the amount of fines for violators of the law, and establishes principles for setting up a compensation fund for victims of tainted foods, and subsequently sent it to the Legislative Yuan for review.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW) said that even though the act was previously amended in May, the recent cooking oil scandals demonstrate a need to increase punishments for perpetrators.

Shiu Ming-neng (許銘能), deputy minister of the MHW, noted that the amendment states that any food companies which manufacture food products that are harmful to humans or adulterate their products will face fines of between NT$60,000 and NT$50 million. Prison time for violators was also raised from three years to five years in extreme cases, Shiu added.

Violators who mislabel their products or use untruthful advertising will face fines of between NT$40,000 and NT$4 million, Shiu said.

Cabinet Spokeswoman Cheng Li-wen (鄭麗文) said that apart from establishing harsher punishments for offenders, the amendment also sets up a fund for compensation.

Cheng further explained that when the government issues fines to violators in accordance with the Act Governing Food Sanitation in future, it will transfer the fines into the fund for dispensation to affected individuals.

As for quality control management, Cheng said that according to the amendment, new food products must now undergo three stages of inspection: testing of the products by food companies, further examination by a third party, and a final round of inspections by the government prior to gaining approval for distribution on the market.

Classifications for Food Safety Incidents

The Executive Yuan established a "food safety incident standard" to classify the degree of seriousness of any future food safety scandals. The Cabinet said that such a system of classification will help to assure the public in clarifying the gravity of each case as quickly as possible.

Minister Without Portfolio Simon Chang (張善政) said that there are four classes in the system. Class 1, which is the most serious gradation, refers to food products containing ingredients that are harmful to humans. Chang said that if food is found to have been contaminated with botulinum toxins, for instance, then the incident would be classified within Class 1.

Class 2 refers to incidents in which a food's production process violates the Act Governing Food Sanitation, but in which the food itself may not immediately cause harm to humans, Chang said, giving the example of the recent case of sodium copper chrolophyllin found in noodles.

Adulterated products fall into the Class 3 category, Chang said, such as honey products containing no actual honey. He added that mislabeling of food products, graded under Class 4, constitutes the least serious type of food safety incident.

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