Mon, Nov 11, 2013 - Page 8 News List

Government leaves public to fend for itself on food

By Liu Ching-ming 劉競明

From Chang Chi Foodstuff Factory Co chairman Kao Chen-li’s (高振利) “oil mixing” to Ting Hsin International Group and Formosa Oilseed Processing Co’s “oil blending,” the edible oil scare has shown us that rich people are different. For example, Ting Hsin chairman Wei Ying-chun (魏應充) and his three brothers, who own nine apartments in the exclusive The Palace residential complex, run their business together and enjoy life in luxurious homes. Why do they have to resort to such actions?

I do not understand food science, but if government officials claim that they do not have enough manpower to inspect food manufacturers and have to rely on empty affidavits and the companies promising to regulate themselves, I know that the human heart will never improve and always remain evil.

Anyone who becomes chairman of a business knows that companies have social responsibility, and they also know that there is something called business ethics. Still, as soon as the conversation turns to making money and cutting costs, they streamline the manufacturing process and ruthlessly cut procurement costs, without considering product quality, simply to boost share prices. Most people will never become another Kao or Wei, but chances are their health will suffer from having consumed substandard food when they get old. Small wonder that cancer rates keep increasing year after year.

Wei Chuan Food Corp has deteriorated to become a retailer of inferior oil products, but the government’s performance has remained as ineffective as always. Last week, the Ministry of Health and Welfare warned a company of its intentions and when it was revealed that “well-known big manufacturers” failed inspections, the government still did not have the gumption to publicize the names of these “well-known big manufacturers,” nor did it dare order the removal of their substandard products from store shelves.

As a result, the government has left the public in the dark to protect the shares of big listed companies.

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who talked widely about right and wrong during the political turmoil in September, now seems to have lost his voice and gone into hiding.

I studied chemistry, and during summer vacation in 1976, I interned at the quality assurance department at a Pacific Electric Wire & Cable Co plant. At that time, there were already raw-material, manufacturing-process and finished-product inspections, and the product history thus established could explain any problem that occurred. Forty years ago, chemistry departments were already using mass spectrometry to test downstream oil polymer products made from petroleum. Why is the government still unable to deal with inferior food additives?

Just as it is possible to judge the quality of a medical institution by looking at its patient histories, the health ministry should be able to take samples from among the raw-material, manufacturing-process and finished-product inspections of these edible oil manufacturers and cooperate with major medical institutions and research centers to announce the results on a regular basis. Local government health bureaus could also make inspections and help establish a government-issued good manufacturing practice certification to promote accountability. This is what a responsible government should do.

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