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Cabinet to set up refund scheme for victims of latest food scandal

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) yesterday said the Cabinet is discussing how to refund money to consumers stiffed in the nation's latest food scandal, and could possibly set up an account out of fines collected from Tatung Changchi Foodstuff Co. (大統長基食品) and Flavor Full Foods (富味鄉食品), the two companies named in the controversy.

Vice Premier Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) yesterday held a cross-department meeting to discuss the matter while Jiang attended an interpellation at a sitting of the Legislative Yuan.

Kuomintang (KMT) lawmaker Apollo Chen (陳學聖) asked Jiang if the confiscated properties from, and fines exacted from, Changchi and Flavor Full would be transferred into the national treasury.

Jiang, however, stressed that the Executive Yuan had never considered the fines to be a part of the national income, noting that the money should be returned to the consumers and the “innocent” retailers and shops who did not know the goods were tainted.

Jiang further noted that even though the process might involve “delicate” legal issues, the Cabinet would nevertheless move forward in establishing a scheme to deal solely with issuing refunds to consumers. He added that by establishing such a framework, the Cabinet would be better prepared to set up a refund scheme should a similar situation occur in the future.

Changchi and Flavor Full Foods were levied fines of NT$1.85 billion and NT$460 million, respectively, as manufacturers of tainted goods. Legislators and local media are worried about the companies' ability to compensate consumers after they pay out fines owed to the government.

In light of this, KMT Legislator Chiang Nai-shin (蔣乃辛) and several other lawmakers yesterday raised a motion during the Yuan Sittings, proposing that the government establish a specific consumer compensation account from the fines owed to the government.

Premier Defends GMP System

Jiang said the government will work hard to improve its competence in ensuring food safety, but fears the public may have lost faith in the nation's GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) system in the wake of the incident.

The premier said most food on the shelves is edible. He said the government will establish a food safety task force and supervise food manufacturers to further improve the issues of mislabeling or incomplete labeling.

During interpellation, Democratic Progressive Party Legislators Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) and Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) cast doubt over whether there is an adequate number of health inspectors to ensure food safety in the nation.

Minister of Health and Welfare Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) said the ministry has proposed an additional budget of NT$300 million for 2014 to increase the number of local health inspectors.

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