As the food additive scare continues to be met with panic among the nation’s consumers, the debacle regrettably also lays bare the incompetence of the central government.
It has been more than two weeks since the news broke that beverages and food products have been contaminated with banned chemicals and yet, rather than showing signs of winding down, this fiasco appears to be spinning out of control, with daily disclosures of new items found to be laced with the chemicals in question.
Despite May 31 having been designated by the Department of Health as the so-called “D-Day” by which companies were required to provide certificates showing their goods were free of six particular chemicals, fears over food safety continue to grip consumers as local media headlined yesterday that a potential third supplier suspected of adding di(2--ethylhexyl) phthalate, or DEHP, to clouding agents may remain unaccounted for.
As consumers worry about which items are still safe to purchase and parents fret over the possible health risks to their toddlers as a result of consuming DEHP-tainted products, we are reminded of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) favorite expression: “Government officials ought to feel the pain of the people.”
Observing Ma’s actions since the contamination became apparent, however, many people can’t help but wonder whether Ma practices what he preaches and whether he himself can empathize at all with what consumers are enduring.
Aside from repeating the announcement of “D-Day” as a show of the government’s determination to drive DEHP-tainted products from store shelves and complimenting the department on Wednesday last week for its affirmation of the health agency’s efforts, what concrete action has the president taken to show his resolve to safeguard the public’s health?
Unfortunately, not much.
Instead, we are being treated to news of the president crisscrossing the nation, busily holding forums with college students in an apparent attempt to seek the younger generation’s support for his re-election bid.
A quick glance at Ma’s itinerary suggests he spent six days last month engaging in 11 campus sessions and that, as of yesterday, barely one week into June, Ma filled his calendar with four campus sessions in three days.
And let’s not forget Ma’s ill-timed attempts at humor when twice during his chats with college students he joked about the DEHP case, saying that back in college he drank juice that did not contain DEHP. Gasp.
If Ma’s casual manner about the food safety scare and his many campus engagements are his way of demonstrating the importance he attaches to the issue, it is little wonder that it has been more than half a month and yet still the Ma administration shows no evidence that it is capable of bringing the food scare to a halt.
Ma, as the head of the state, should be mindful that the rest of his administration looks to him to lead by example.
A perfunctory attitude seems to be the pinnacle of Ma’s approach to the issue of food safety in the nation. We should dread the regulation of food safety in the hands of an incompetent government.