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Taiwan: New Food Safety Label

(July 7, 2015) On June 24, 2015, the industry group Taiwan Quality Food Association (Taiwan yu-liang shih-p’in fa-chan hsieh-hui or TQF) unveiled its logo for a new food safety accreditation system. The purpose of the new label and system is to emphasize the government’s renewed efforts to protect public health and to re-establish confidence in Taiwan’s food sector in the aftermath of food safety scandals. (New Food Accreditation Label Launched in Taiwan, TAIWAN TODAY (June 24, 2015).)

The new system supersedes the GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) accreditation system that had been established in 1989 by Taiwan’s Industrial Development Bureau under the Ministry of Economic Affairs. (Id.) According to TQF Chairperson Bonnie Sun, “[t]he new program involves independent organizations at home and abroad performing accreditation, audits, certification and inspections to ensure better supply chain management.” (Id.) The TQF will cooperate with the Safe Quality Food Institute, based in the United States, to help better align Taiwan’s food certification practices with global standards. (Id.)

Among the changes in the system are that all similar food items, not just production lines, must meet TQF standards before the manufacturing facility can obtain accreditation. (Id.) In addition, the TQF will enforce stricter source control and traceability measures and conduct surprise inspections twice yearly at certified plants to ensure full compliance with the law. (Id.; for a comparison chart of the TQF and GMP systems, see Taiwan Quality Food Product Certification System Product Certification Proposal … Announcement on Partial Added and Revised Items (June 15, 2015), TQF website (in Chinese).)

At present, Sun indicated, there are 160 certified companies and 2,310 products in Taiwan, which “TQF expects to quickly increase.” TQF also seeks to bring into its membership “distributors, raw material suppliers and consumer groups,” she noted. (Id.)


The main impetus behind the new revamped food quality verification measures was the “gutter oil” scandal, which surfaced in September 2014, when a prosecutorial investigation of a waste oil recycling plant revealed that the owner was in fact making food-grade lard from the waste material. (Tim Ferry, How Safe Is Taiwan’s Food?, TAIWAN BUSINESS TOPICS (Feb. 6, 2015).) The material being recycled “included oil from grease traps, waste from tanneries, and diseased animal carcasses (alarmingly referred to as “corpse oil” in major English-language media).” (Id.) A food scare ensued, because the adulterated oil that was subsequently sold to Chang Guann Co., mixed with lard, and made into its Chuan Tung cooking oil was distributed throughout the country “to more than 1,200 restaurants, schools and food processors.” (Editorial, Taiwan’s ‘Gutter Oil’ Scandal, NEW YORK TIMES (Sept. 18, 2014).)

Taiwan health authorities, moreover, identified “more than 1,300 food products tainted by the oil, including instant noodles, snacks, cakes, dumplings, bread, canned pork, meat paste and glutinous rice.” (Id.) The South China Morning Post reported that 14 of the products were foods that had been marketed overseas, including in the United States, and news reports indicated that more than 1,000 companies were affected, including major retail chains like Starbucks and 7-Eleven. (Michelle Flor Cruz, Taiwan ‘Gutter Oil’ Scandal: Hundreds of Products Banned by Health Officials, INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES (Sept. 12, 2014).)

The 2014 oil scandal had been preceded by a series of threats to food safety in 2013. In one of them, a factory owner who added copper chlorophyllin, which is a banned coloring agent, to olive oil received a prison sentence of 16 years. (Id.)

Actions by the Authorities to Protect Food Safety

To remedy the problem, the Ministry of Health and Welfare took action, first by sending out inspectors to ensure that all the tainted food products listed had been removed, then by amending laws and regulations. (Id.) For example, in a December 2014 amendment, a new article 2-1 was added to the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation, establishing a Food Safety Board at the Cabinet level to “enhance the coordination, monitoring, promotion, and inspection of national food safety affairs,” with counterparts of the Board to be set up at the municipal, county, and city government levels. (Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation (as last amended Feb. 4, 2015), art. 2-1 ¶¶ 1 & 2, Taiwan Food and Drug Administration website.) Another new article provides for the police to dispatch officers to assist the agency in charge in order to safeguard food safety and stem illicit behavior on the part of businesses. (Id. art. 42-1.) A third addition to the Act allows for the forfeiture or retrieval of a food business’s acquired assets or property interests if that business is identified by the competent authority as engaging in actions detrimental to human health. (Id. art. 49-2.)

According to a government notice on Food Businesses Subject to Testing, Minimum Testing Cycles, and Other Relevant Matters (issued on August 21, 2014), as of December 31, 2014, businesses with a capital of at least $30 million, including “aquatic food factories, meat processing factories, dairy processing factories, food additive manufacturers and importers, and special nutritional food suppliers (that have completed the inspection and registration),” are to be required to carry out their own tests or commission a testing agency to test products mandated to be tested by the government, using government-announced testing methods or ones that are internationally recognized. (Businesses Are Urged to Take Corresponding Action as Early as Possible as the Mandatory Testing Requirements for Second Group of Industries Will Come into Effect by the End of this Year [Businesses Are Urged to Take Action], Ministry of Health and Welfare website (Dec. 29, 2014).)

The manufacturers that fail to carry out testing, or that commit certain other acts, such as providing false information, could face a fine of up to NT$3 million (about US$97,124). If the violation of the law is especially serious, such penalties as suspension of the business for a certain time period or termination may be imposed pursuant to the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation. (Id.; Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation, arts. 47 & 48.) A similar notice, on Minimum Testing Cycles and Other Relevant Matters for the Testing Required for Edible Oils and Fats Manufacturers, was issued on October 24, 2014. (Businesses Are Urged to Take Action, supra.)

In addition, a three-level approach to food safety and quality assurance – calling for self-discipline among businesses, certification by institutions, and inspection by the government – was incorporated into the Act. (Id.) To reinforce businesses’ self-monitoring, the Ministry of Health and Welfare introduced mandatory testing for certain key items that are part of raw materials, semi-finished products, and end products for different industries, at various stages of the process, in conformity with article 7 of the Act. (Id.)