substandard food-punishment

SEOUL, March 27 (Yonhap) -- Those caught producing and distributing adulterated food could face a minimum of three years in prison as part of the government's effort to root out problems caused by substandard food that threatens public safety, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said Wednesday.

It is one of the comprehensive countermeasures the government devised to guarantee the safety of foodstuff in line with President Park Geun-hye's pledge to eradicate the country's four major "social ills" of school and sexual violence, home-wrecking crime and substandard food.

To push for stricter punishment for food-related crimes, the government plans to revise relevant laws before June of this year. The current law, for instance, stipulates a minimum prison term of one year for those who use animals that suffer from mad cow disease or the avian influenza as food products, according to the PMO.

Criminals who earn profits through manufacturing and distributing substandard foodstuff will have up to 10 times those profits confiscated, the government said. Currently, the authorities confiscate up to five times as much as what the criminals illegally earn.

"We should root out the social ill of substandard food," Prime Minister Chung Hong-won said while presiding over a meeting Wednesday to discuss ways to guarantee food safety.

"A consistent joint crackdown on such illegal activities should be made," he said, stressing that the country should no longer think that "evading a clampdown will be possible."

As part of efforts to improve the sanitary conditions of school meals, the government has decided to increase the frequency of inspections from twice a year to four times a year, while pushing for measures to ban stores within schools from selling highly caffeinated drinks.

The government also said it will integrate different networks that provide information about food safety managed by different government agencies so as to provide more precise and comprehensive information about what is being eaten in a prompt fashion.

"We will set up a task force next week in charge of eradicating inferior foodstuff, while the Ministry of Justice and the National Police Agency will launch an intensive crackdown by June," the PMO said in a statement.

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