Consumer group calls for harsher fines against tainted-oil producer
CNATAIPEI -- The government should impose heavier fines on the oil producer that violated the law by selling adulterated cooking oil under false pretenses, the Consumers' Foundation said yesterday.
October 24, 2013, 12:07 am TWN
The total fine of over NT$28 million (US$952,808) against Changchi Foodstuff Factory Co. as of Oct. 19 is a small amount compared to the company's annual sales of NT$1.5 billion, although the fine is a record for a single enterprise in violation of the Act Governing Food Sanitation, the consumers' group said.
The authorities should slap Changchi with the maximum fine for each of its 59 violations uncovered so far, which range from manufacturing and selling mislabeled, adulterated and counterfeit products to adding banned food additives to its products, the foundation said.
Changchi was fined the maximum NT$200,000 for mislabeling its oils, but only NT$100,000 for each charge related to counterfeit and adulterated products, and NT$2 million in each case of banned additives, the foundation said.
The fines for the last two categories of violation could go as high as NT$3 million and NT$15 million, respectively, it added.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare, therefore, should give a directive for health authorities in Changhua County, where the oil producer is based, to issue heavier fines as a deterrent to other food companies, the consumers' group said.
Meanwhile, during a hearing of the Legislature's Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee on Wednesday, lawmaker Tien Chiu-chin urged the Health Ministry to adopt the Administrative Penalty Act, which allows authorities to impose fines beyond the maximum if violators are found to have made huge unlawful gains.
Vice Health Minister Shiu Ming-neng responded by saying that the ministry is studying methods to calculate Changchi's illegal gains and is expected to come up with a figure by Oct. 30.
Meanwhile, the Changhua District Prosecutors Office on Wednesday defended its decision to grant bail to Changchi Chairman Kao Chen-li, after the company was searched Oct. 16.
Prosecutors said Kao is not allowed to leave the country, his and the company's assets have been frozen, and the local police are keeping close tabs on him.
These measures are as effective as detaining Kao and can protect consumers' rights to seek compensation in the future, the prosecutors said.
The company's violations are not classified as criminal, prosecutors said, adding that they are still awaiting the results of the toxicology tests on the cottonseed oil Changchi used in its products and are looking for evidence of possible fraud. The discovery that Changchi was using hydrochloric acid in its soy sauce points only to possible mislabeling, since the company claimed that its products were made in the traditional way, they said.