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Legislature shouldn't be rushing in food act amendment: Cabinet

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Executive Yuan spokeswoman Cheng Li-wun (鄭麗文) urged legislators not to hastily pass a recent amendment to the Act Governing Food Sanitation on Friday, as the content of the amendment will create future obstacles to international trade.

The Legislative Yuan next week will hold an extra session to handle the food safety law. Local media outlets reported that both the ruling party and the opposition caucus previously had reached a consensus over an article of the bill — every food additive should be labeled on food products — nevertheless, the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW) deemed that the article would violate a pact of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and cause controversy.

Cheng told local press on Friday morning that the Executive Yuan's position has never changed that it supports the Cabinet's version of the Act Governing Food Sanitation amendment, and it hopes the legislators can also support the Cabinet's version.

The spokesperson said if lawmakers propose new regulations that would protect food safety, then the Executive Yuan will “definitely” support them, stressing that if those regulations would not further ensure food safety, or would pose difficulties to Taiwan in terms of international trade, then the Cabinet hopes the lawmakers could carefully deliberate the bill, and not rashly pass it.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) said the MHW did not raise any objections over the new regulations proposed by legislators when the bill was still under review in the Legislature's committee.

Gao said he strongly condemns the government's ever-shifting stance over the matter, noting that “if the Kuomintang caucus wants to stall the article about food additive labeling, then there's no point to amend the law or discuss it in the extra session.”

DPP lawmaker Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) said the DPP caucus would never give in regarding amendments to the food safety law.

KMT Caucus is with the Cabinet

Kuomintang Legislator Chiang Huei-chen (江惠貞) held a press conference on Friday and said that the key points about amending the law are to levy a heavier punishments to dishonest food manufacturers and to establish a food safety fund to protect consumers.

Chiang said, however, some legislators proposed several articles that would possibly cause issues with international trade.

MHW Food and Drug Administration Director-General Yeh Ming-kung (葉明功), who also attended Chiang's press conference, said he recently received communications from chambers of commerce and diplomats from many countries hoping to communicate over the bill amendment.

Yeh said as Taiwan is part of international society, the nation should consider international conventions regarding relevant food safety laws. He said he hopes the Legislative Yuan can pass agreed-upon articles first, and discuss the rest of them at a later date.

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