Taiwan cabinet approved a draft bill that leads to a 33-fold increase in the fine for adding some banned chemicals to food items. This step is taken to battle against the worst food scare in decades.
The change to the food sanitation law, which now awaits parliament's final approval, also makes it possible to sentence violators to up to five years in jail, compared with three years now.
AdvertisementIt allows a fine of up to Tw$10 million ($345,000) for violators, up from Tw$300,000 before, the cabinet said in a statement. The bill is expected to be submitted to parliament and approved before it adjourns on June 14.
The move came after China, South Korea, the Philippines and Hong Kong banned imports of certain food and drinks from Taiwan after some were found to contain the chemical DEHP, which experts say can cause hormone problems in children.
"The existing law is unable to cope with such serious crimes," the cabinet statement said.
This week the island began a nationwide inspection drive to ensure sports drinks, juices and three more product categories were not tainted with DEHP or five other chemicals, after raising the alarm on May 24 with a major recall.
It said then it was recalling more than 460,000 bottles of sports drinks and juice after some locally manufactured drinks were found to contain the substance, normally used to make plastics.
Authorities have arrested the owners of two companies that used DEHP rather than more expensive palm oil in products supplied to hundreds of local drinks makers.
They have also arrested a married couple after their company was found lacing its additives with DINP, another banned chemical.
On Thursday, television images showed a local pharmaceutical company destroying a tonne of polluted tablets and materials in the central Taichung city.
The scare has dealt a blow to the food and biotechnology sector on the export-dependent island, as consumers shun buying products that might be affected, pending further official investigation into the scandal.