Tue, Jul 17, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Consumers must know the origin of their food

By Chen Gau-tzu 陳昭姿

At an international food safety conference in Beijing in May, EU Director-General for Health and Consumer Protection Robert Madelin argued that Chinese food products are of dubious quality, putting the health of consumers at risk.

Last week, a US couple filed a lawsuit with the Indiana state court against a food manufacturer, Robert's American Gourmet, after their one-year-old son died of severe diarrhea three days after eating the company's Veggie Booty snacks. The hospital diagnosed him with salmonella poisoning. As a result, the company was forced to recall Veggie Booty and Super Veggie Tings, which both contained the same additives imported from China. The additives tested positive for salmonella.

In light of contaminated Chinese food and ingredients, Food for Health International, a US health food company, has already launched a "China-free" campaign. The company says in its advertisements that its products do not contain any ingredients from China and has begun labeling its packages with a "China-free" sticker.

The Food and Drug Administration requires that seafood companies specify the origin of the food on packages, while meat and agricultural products must meet similar regulations. Although the US industry, government and academics have actively discussed how to improve food labeling, the "China-free" stickers are the first concrete sign of change.

As for Taiwan, the clearest example of labeling is Taiwan Salt Industrial Corp's "Contains Taiwan salt" certification label. To distinguish its products from Chinese ones, the company has used a Taiwan-shaped label on its packaging so as to reassure consumers that foods and restaurants with the label are using its salts.

We must be more aware of where our food comes from. At the hospital where I work, the head of the nutrition department once told me that she never bought any imported Chinese foods and always paid careful attention to food safety. There has not been a case of food poisoning at the hospital in more than 10 years, which puts patients and colleagues well at ease.

Janice Chen is an administrative member of the Taiwan Society.

Translated by Eddy Chang

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