Taipei, Oct. 29 (CNA) The health authorities said Tuesday that they have drafted law amendments to increase the penalties for food fraud, after a major adulterated oil scandal caused a public outcry.
According to the amendments drafted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), maximum fines for manufacturers of adulterated or counterfeit food will be increased to NT$50 million (US$1.69 million) from NT$15 million, with the minimum fine of NT$60,000 remaining unchanged.
Fines for mislabeling, on the other hand, could be increased from between NT$40,000 and NT$200,000 to between NT$40,000 and NT$4 million, Wu Hsiu-ying, deputy head of the FDA, said during a press conference in the Legislature.
The FDA is also seeking heavier criminal penalties for manufacturers of adulterated or counterfeit food. Violators may face up to five years in prison, up from the current three years, according to the proposed Act Governing Food Sanitation amendments.
A fund could also be set up to reward whistleblowers who expose food fraud within their companies, Wu said.
Calls for heftier punishments for fraudulent food manufacturers have emerged recently following reports of major oil companies adulterating expensive edible oil products with much cheaper cottonseed oil or making oil blends with flavorings and colorings and passing them off as olive, peanut and chili oil.
Meanwhile, 61 of the 163 edible oil producers in Taiwan have signed official documents guaranteeing that the content of their products matches what is listed on the label, according to the FDA.
Among the 61 firms are major food makers Uni-President Enterprises Corp. and Standard Foods Corp., the latter of which has recently been accused of mislabeling two of its Great Day line of oil products. The firm has denied the allegations.
The FDA said that the country's 163 edible oil producers and an unknown number of distributors and related firms are being encouraged to sign the documents by Oct. 31. The names of those that sign the documents will be published on the FDA's website for consumers' reference.
(By Wang Ching-yi, Chen Ching-fang and Scully Hsiao)