When it comes to food and food safety, consumers have basic rights protected by law and, logically, food business operators have basic obligations required by law. Food safety is now covered by a new law, Republic Act No. 10611, also known as the “Food and Safety Act of 2013,” signed by President Benigno Aquino on 23 August 2013.
What is food, which is covered by this law?
Food refers to any substance or product whether processed, partially processed or unprocessed that is intended for human consumption. It includes drinks, chewing gum, water and other substances which are intentionally incorporated into the food during its manufacture, preparation and treatment.
What is food safety?
Food safety refers to the assurance that food will not cause harm to the consumer when it is prepared or eaten according to its intended use. Food hygiene, on the other hand, refers to the measures and conditions necessary to control hazards that could lead to food-borne illnesses and to ensure fitness for human consumption of a food of plant or animal origin taking into account its intended use.
What is a food safety regulatory system?
Food safety regulatory system refers to the combination of regulations, food safety standards, inspection, testing, data collection, monitoring and other activities carried out by food safety regulatory agencies and by the Local Government Units (LGUs) in the implementation of their responsibilities for the control of food safety risks in the food supply chain.
What are food safety standards?
Food safety standards refer to the formal documents containing the requirements that foods or food processors have to comply with to safeguard human health. They are implemented by authorities and enforced by law; and are usually developed and published under the auspices of a national standards body.
The Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health shall set the mandatory food safety standards.
What is food business?
Food business refers to any undertaking, whether public or private, that carries out any of the activities related to, or any of the stages of the food supply chain. On the other hand, “food supply chain” refers to all stages in the production of food from primary production, post-harvest handling, distribution, processing and preparation for human consumption.
Who is a food business operator?
Food business operator refers to a person engaged in the food business including one’s agents and is responsible for ensuring that the requirements of the law are met by the food business under one’s control. All food business operators must be licensed/registered and subject to regular inspection.
What are the responsibilities of Food Business Operators when it comes to food safety?
The principal responsibility of food business operators is to ensure that food satisfies the requirements of food law relevant to their activities in the food supply chain and that control systems are in place to prevent, eliminate or reduce risks to consumers. Specifically, food business operators shall have the following responsibilities under the law:
1. Food business operators shall be knowledgeable of the specific requirements of food law relevant, to their activities in the food supply chain and the procedures adopted by relevant government agencies that implement the law. They shall adopt, apply and be well informed of codes and principles for good practices. Micro and small industries shall be assisted to facilitate their adoption of such practices.
2. If a food business operator considers or has reason to believe that a food which it produced, processed, distributed or imported is not safe or not in compliance with food safety requirements, it shall immediately initiate procedures to withdraw the food in question from the market and inform the regulatory authority.
3. Food business operators shall allow inspection of their businesses and collaborate with the regulatory authorities on action taken to avoid risks posed by the food product/s which they have supplied.
4. Where the unsafe or noncompliant food product may have reached the consumer, the operator shall effectively and accurately inform the consumers of the reason for the withdrawal, and if necessary, recall the same from the market.
What is the focus in the protection of consumer interests?
The protection of consumer interest shall be geared towards the following: (1) Prevention of adulteration, misbranding, fraudulent practices and other practices which mislead the consumer; and (2) Prevention of misrepresentation in the labelling and false advertising in the presentation of food, including their shape, appearance or packaging, the packaging materials used, the manner in which they are arranged, the setting in which they are displayed, and the product description including the information which is made available about them through whatever medium. Where relevant, the presentation of goods shall provide consumers a basis to make informed choices in relation to the food they purchase.
What are the prohibited acts under the Food and Safety Act of 2013?
It shall be unlawful for any person to:
1. Produce, handle or manufacture for sale, offer for sale, distribute in commerce, or import into the Philippines any food or food product which is not in conformity with an applicable food quality or safety standard promulgated in accordance with this law.
2. Produce, handle or manufacture for sale, offer for sale, distribute in commerce, or import into the Philippines any food or food product which has been declared as banned food product by a rule promulgated in accordance with this law.
3. Refuse access to pertinent records or entry of inspection officers of the FSRA.
4. Fail to comply with an order relating to notifications to recall unsafe products.
5. Adulterate, misbrand, mislabel, falsely advertise any food product which misleads the consumers and carry out any other acts contrary to good manufacturing practices.
6. Operate a food business without the appropriate authorization.
7. Connive with food business operators or food inspectors, which will result in food safety risks to the consumers.
8. Violate the implementing rules and regulations of this law.
What are the applicable penalties for persons criminally liable?
Any person who shall violate any provision of this this law shall suffer the penalties provided hereunder:
a. For the first conviction, a fine of not less than P50,000 but not more than P100,000 and suspension of appropriate authorization for 1 month shall be imposed.
b. For the second conviction, a fine of not less than P100,000 but not more than P200,000 and suspension of appropriate authorization for 3 months shall be imposed.
c. For the third conviction, a line of not less than P200,000 but not more than P300,000 and suspension of appropriate authorization for 6 months shall be imposed.
d. For violation resulting in slight physical injury of a person, upon conviction, a line of not less than P200,000 but not more than P300,000 and suspension of appropriate authorization for 6 months shall be imposed. The offender shall also pay the hospitalization and rehabilitation cost of a person.
e. For violation resulting in less serious or serious physical injury of a person, upon conviction, a line of not less than P200,000 but not more than P300,000 and suspension of appropriate authorization for 1 year shall be imposed. The offender shall also pay the hospitalization and rehabilitation cost of a person.
f. For violation resulting in death of a person, upon conviction, the penalty of imprisonment of not less than 6 months and 1 day but not more than 6 years and 1 day and a line of not less than P300,000 but not more than P500,000 and permanent revocation of appropriate authorization to operate a food business shall be imposed.
If the offender does not have the appropriate authorization, the imposable fines shall be doubled.
If the offender is a government personnel, in addition to the penalty prescribed herein, said personnel shall be subjected to the appropriate civil service laws.
If the offender is a naturalized citizen, in addition to the penalty prescribed herein, the naturalization certificate and the registration in the civil registry of said citizen shall be cancelled. Immediate deportation after payment of line and service of sentence shall also be imposed.
If the offender is an alien, said alien shall be summarily deported after payment of fine and service of sentence and perpetually barred from entering the country.
Any director, officer or agent of a corporation who shall authorize, order or perform any of the acts or practices constituting in whole or in part a violation of on the prohibited acts, and who has knowledge or notice of noncompliance received by the corporation from the concerned department, shall be subjected to the penalties under this section.
In case the violation is committed by, or in the interest of a foreign juridical person duly licensed to engage in business in the Philippines, such license to engage in business in the Philippines shall immediately be revoked.
Who are accountable for Food Safety Regulation?
The FSRAs of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Health (DOH), in coordination with the LGUs, shall be responsible in ensuring food safety at various stages of the food supply chain within their specified mandates.
What is FSRA?
FSRA stands for Food Safety Regulatory Agencies, which are the following national government agencies:
Various agencies under the DA, which shall be principally responsible for food safety in the primary production and post-harvest stages of food supply chain and foods locally produced or imported in this category.
Various agencies under the DOH, which shall have the principal responsibility for the safety of processed and prepackaged foods, foods locally produced or imported under this category and the conduct of monitoring and epidemiological studies on food-borne illnesses.
What are the responsibilities of the Department of Local Government (DILG) and the LGUs?
The DILG, in collaboration with the DA, the DOH and other government agencies, shall supervise the enforcement of food safety and sanitary rules and regulations as well as the inspection and compliance of business establishments and facilities within its territorial jurisdiction.
The LGUs shall have the principal responsibility for food safety in food businesses such as, but not limited to, activities in slaughterhouses, dressing plants, fish ports, wet markets, supermarkets, school canteens, restaurants, catering establishments and water refilling stations. The LGU shall also be responsible for street food sale, including ambulant vending. Specifically, the LGUs shall be responsible for the enforcement of the “Code on Sanitation of the Philippines” (Presidential Decree No. 856, December 23, 1975), food safety standards and food safety regulations where food is produced, processed, prepared and/or sold in their territorial jurisdiction.