Sat, May 13, 2017 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: No quick-fix food safety remedy

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has organized a rally in Taipei today to back demands for a “toxin-free homeland.”

A party official said participants would protest what the KMT said was the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government’s inability to address food safety issues, amid fears that it might lift a ban on imports of US pork containing ractopamine, the ban on food from five Japanese prefectures, and ease restrictions on pesticide use on fruit and vegetables.

If that were not enough, participants are also to blame the government for a purported rise in drug use on school campuses.

As Mother’s Day is tomorrow, the theme of the rally is “Please take good care of yourself, mom. Safeguard a toxin-free homeland,” the KMT said.

It sounds more like the KMT is trying to hide behind mothers’ aprons to deflect any criticism of its newfound concern for the environment and public health, since its credentials in these areas hardly bear close scrutiny.

The absurdity of the KMT painting itself as a defender of a “toxin-free homeland” appears to have escaped party officials, which is not surprising given their selective amnesia when it comes to malfeasance during the party’s decades-long governance of the nation.

After all, it was under the KMT’s “industrial development first” policies that thousands of hectares of farmland nationwide were contaminated with heavy metals because the lack of effective effluent standards allowed the discharge of untreated or barely treated factory wastewater into irrigation canals and rivers.

The Environmental Protection Administration in 1987 said about 15 percent of the nation’s farmland had been contaminated by heavy metals from untreated wastewater discharged by electroplating workshops.

The Taiwan Environmental Information Association said in January last year, citing Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute statistics, that there were 1,113 plots of farmland that still failed to meet heavy metal control standards. That data showed the five most contaminated areas were in Taoyuan, Changhua County, Pingtung County, Kaohsiung and Taichung.

As for pesticides, Taiwan has long ranked from third to first place in the world when it comes to the amount of pesticides used per unit of agricultural area, depending on who is doing the measuring.

And who can forget all the food scandals that occurred under the KMT’s watch?

To cite but a few: the discovery in 2011 of di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate in emulsifying additives used in sports beverages, juices, jellies and syrups; the discoveries in 2013 that Flavor Full Foods had been selling adulterated sesame oil for four years and that Chang Chi Foodstuff Factory had been adding illegal additives to its cooking oils; and the repeated Ting Hsin International Group scandals of 2014 including Cheng I Food Co’s cooking oils, and Wei Chuan Foods Corp’s use of recycled kitchen waste and industrial grease in some of its products.

Wanting a “toxin-free homeland” is a commendable idea and many Taiwanese are very concerned about food safety, with good reason.

However, the KMT painting itself as a defender of the nation and the year-old DPP government as a laggard, if not negligent in this area, is nothing more than political grandstanding — just like the noisy, flour-throwing tactics of KMT lawmakers during committee meetings this week that made a mess of the Legislative Yuan.

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