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KMT, DPP gridlocked over food safety articles

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Kuomingtang (KMT) caucus yesterday called on the Legislature to pass only articles of the controversial food safety law amendment that both ruling and opposition lawmakers reached a consensus on, a suggestion opposed by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on the grounds that it leaves other important food safety issues unaddressed.

The slated amendment will be read in the Legislature's extra session to be held today and tomorrow. Local media outlets reported that both the ruling party and the opposition caucus previously reached a consensus over an article of the bill — that every food additive should be labeled on food products — but the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW) deemed that the article may conflict with a World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement and cause controversy.

The Act Governing Food Sanitation was amended last November, the changes stating that listing the flavoring ingredients on food product labels is essential in the future.

Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) will be holding cross-party negotiations today in the hopes of getting the party caucuses to reach a consensus on the issues regarding labeling food additives and genetically modified foods.

Wang noted yesterday that he was unsure whether the Legislature would be able to resolve their issues over the food safety act amendment, saying that although the amendment draft was sent to the Legislature a month ago, there can be no vote at all if the opposing lawmakers do not change their minds.

KMT caucus whip Lin Hung-chih (林鴻池) noted that both KMT and DPP legislators agreed that food manufacturers should face heavier fines and severe punishment after violating food safety laws and that a third party inspection system and protection fund should be established.

“The funds and the additional fines are essential; I hope these won't be hindered by the cross-party negotiations. We will be discussing the controversial articles in depth,” said Lin.

Opposition Objects to 'Partial Passage'

DPP caucus whip Wu Ping-jui (吳秉叡) seemed to find Lin's suggestion unacceptable. “If we're going to pass the amendment, we pass every single article. Our caucus is set to reach a balance between the safety of consumers and international trade essentials. If the negotiations are successful, the act will be passed. We will not accept a partial passage,” Wu stressed.

The Cabinet stated last week that legislators should not hastily pass the food safety law amendment, as the contents of the amendment may create future obstacles to international trade.

The original law regulated that food manufacturers may face three years behind bars or a fine of under NT$8 million for intentionally mislabeling products or forging ingredient labels, whereas the amendment calls for the violators to be jailed for five years. Forgery may land guilty parties with a fine ranging from NT$60,000 to NT$50 million, as opposed to the original NT$60,000 to NT$15 million; mislabeling leads to fines ranging between NT$40,000 and NT$4 million, whereas the original regulation demands NT$40,000 to NT$200,000.

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