Rice inspections to tighten: COA
CNATAIPEI--Agriculture authorities promised yesterday at the urging of lawmakers to control imported rice after it has entered the domestic market, to prevent controversies such as imported rice being mislabeled as locally grown or consumers at restaurants mistaking imported rice they are served as being locally produced.
October 8, 2013, 12:08 am TWN
The Council of Agriculture (COA) will complete a listing of imported rice channels within two weeks and also reinforce rice labeling measures, Agriculture Minister Chen Bao-ji pledged at a hearing of the Legislative Yuan's Economics Committee.
Lawmakers at the hearing expressed grave concerns over an August scandal that saw Miaoli County-based Chyuan Shun Food Enterprise Co. — one of the three largest rice mills and distributors in Taiwan — selling rice labeled as Taiwan-grown but which was in fact much cheaper imported rice.
Legislator Lin Tai-hua of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party said Taiwan imports 144,000 tons of rice every year under the obligatory import quota set by the World Trade Organization. The volume and place of origin of these imports are clearly documented when they enter Taiwan, she noted.
However, the imported rice is lost track of as soon as it enters the domestic market, Lin went on. She voiced concern that the cheaper imported rice could find its way into government's granaries before being used to make public school lunches or military meals with no one knowing where the rice comes from.
This could attract public criticism of the government, Lin said.
Promising to push businesses to label their rice with geographic origin, Chen said the COA would also work with the Ministry of Health and Welfare to ensure that lunch box vendors and eateries around the country note the origin of the rice they use.
Meanwhile, the COA is working on a proposal to increase the fine for mislabeling food products from between NT$40,000 (US$1,362) and NT$200,000 to up to NT$3 million, according to Chen.