Sat, Jun 22, 2013 - Page 8 News List

Measures to ensure food safety

By Du Yu 杜宇

However, much more has to be done before the nation’s food products can be considered truly safe.

Taiwan still has occasional problems with food sanitation such as fruit and vegetables containing excessive amounts of pesticide, fish containing residues of antibiotics and heavy metals and the issue of dead pork — meat from pigs long deceased.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received much criticism for its lack of responsiveness and the processes it has used in following up on these harmful food products.

This has been the case in light of recent responses from governments in the EU, Japan and South Korea.

These governments became concerned when an unapproved genetically modified strain of wheat was found to be produced in the US state of Oregon.

The Japanese government not only increased testing, but immediately stopped the importation of Western White wheat produced in Oregon — moves that South Korea followed.

In Taiwan, the FDA only demanded that the US offer an explanation and complete investigations as soon as possible.

The Taiwanese government did not tighten border controls, making it difficult to assure food safety for worried consumers.

Just as with financial supervision, the supervision of food safety must be constant. The government cannot keep citing a lack of manpower and funds as an excuse for not doing so, nor can it expect to rely solely on the ethics of manufacturers.

What is needed to restore consumer confidence is joint cooperation between the government, manufacturers and the public, with the government providing timely information and showing that it has the ability to solve problems.

The Taiwanese government should pay closer attention to good measures such as the US Food and Drug Administration’s interactive Web-based system FDA-iRISK, the letter-grading system for restaurants being promoted by the New York City government, and the EU Risk Assessment system.

Taiwanese government agencies must think more about how they should go about conducting controls at the source, make more regular samples of foods, establish warning mechanisms, ensure the safety of foods purchased online and increase incentives for people to report unscrupulous manufacturers.

They should also come up with concrete methods and put these into action.

The only way the government can stop similar food safety scares from recurring is showing resolve and determination.

Government officials cannot just demand that the public avoid consuming toxic food products.

After all, providing the public with safe food products is a basic responsibility of any government.

Du Yu is chief executive officer of the Chen-Li Task Force for Agricultural Reform.

Translated by Drew Cameron

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