Consumer Foundation calls FDA stance in noodle labeling ‘weak’
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-07-02 11:11 AM
The Consumers' Foundation (CF) harshly criticized the Food and Drug Agency (FDA) Tuesday for backing away from its ruling on labeling for rice noodles less the day after it was released. The agency announced Monday that packaged noodles in which rice flour makes up less than 100% of its contents cannot be labeled “Hsinchu rice noodles," drawing a sharp reaction from noodle industry representatives. In the face of resistance the agency buckled, leading the CF to accuse it of weakness. KMT legislator Lu Hsueh-chang commented, "The industry won’t change the name, they themselves will never change," while Wu Yu-Sheng faulted the FDA, saying, "They are lenient with names and strict with labels."

Lei Li-fen, Secretary-General of the CF, said the industry is incapable of meeting high standards. They want to tell consumers a product is Hsinchu rice noodles, she said, when it is clearly made with ingredients other than rice. She urged consumers to be alert, and if they see a product which is called Hsinchu rice noodles but the label says it is actually made using "cooking flour" or "gouache flour, with a rice flour content of less than 50%, they should refuse to buy it.

Chiang Yu-mei, Deputy Director of the FDA, defended the agency’s action, saying it had not come under pressure, nor had there been any discussion of the title. She said many producers in the industry did not understand the contents of the FDA announcement, so the agency will respond to the wishes of different sectors of society and present a clearer picture of the ruling and its intent.

The FDA said Tuesday that manufacturers in the fruit and vegetable juice and dairy product industries have largely complied with new labeling guidelines announced Tuesday, with more than 90% already changing their labels. In the noodles industry, however, the rate of compliance was only about 40%. As the new labeling requirements are based on the production date, however, most of the products already on shelves are not affected by the new ruling and are not considered illegal.

In Fengkang Community of Fenyuan Township in Changhua County, noodle producers were adamant about sticking to their old labels. Noting that they have been calling their product rice noodles for five generations, they claimed that suddenly changing the name made no sense. Besides, they added, noodles made from pure rice flour turn pasty when they are plunged in water. Thus they add a bit of corn flour, which tastes good and does the human body no harm. In light of all that, they said, changing the product name is a waste of resources.

In Yilan County, Health Department inspectors paid a visit to noodle factories in the Li-tse Industrial Zone Tuesday, where for 44 years Tiger brand rice noodles have been produced. They reported that the company has complied with the new regulations and is using labeling that indicates the true content of the noodles, identifying it as 100% rice noodles, cooking flour noodles, fine noodles, "gouache" noodles and other types, all under the Tiger Brand Noodles label

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