Thu, Oct 23, 2014 - Page 1 News List

Cabinet launches Food Safety Office

WORK CUT OUT:Minister of Health and Welfare Chiang Been-huang, sworn in yesterday, is to head the office, as well as dealing with Ebola, dengue and NHI reform

By Alison Hsiao and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporters

Minister of Health and Welfare Chiang Been-huang talks to the press in Taipei after officially taking over the post yesterday.

Photo: Fang Pin-chao, Taipei Times

The Executive Yuan’s Food Safety Office was officially launched yesterday.

The agency is to be supervised by newly appointed Minister of Health and Welfare Chiang Been-huang (蔣丙煌), who was sworn in yesterday, and has a prosecutor from the Taiwan High Prosecutors’ Office stationed to streamline communications with investigators on food safety.

The office is a standing body with between 20 and 25 full-time staff members, who have been transferred from the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the Ministry of Justice and the Council of Agriculture, according to the Executive Yuan.

Five people from a team tasked with building a food cloud within the Executive Yuan’s Board of Science and Technology have also been dispatched to support the new office.

Four teams — responsible for inspections and the enforcement of food safety regulations; running an information platform; management and coordination; and emergency-response and communication respectively — have been set up at the office.

Chiang is to supervise the operation of the office, while Food and Drug Administration Risk Management Director Tsai Shu-chen (蔡淑貞) has been appointed office deputy director (currently acting director), and Tsai Meng-lun (蔡孟倫), an adviser at the Executive Yuan’s Department of the Interior, Health, Welfare and Labor, is to serve as another deputy director.

“There are [various ministries and government agencies] on the front line battling food-related violations, but in the rear, you need something like a General Staff Headquarters, in charge of integration, coordination and command, and the Food Safety Office is exactly it,” Chiang said.

Prosecutor Tseng Chiun-che (曾俊哲) of the Taiwan High Prosecutors’ Office is to be the office-stationed prosecutor for the coordination of food inspections carried out by district prosecutors’ offices. Tseng was commended in 2012 for his investigation of a case involving plasticizer-tainted beverages.

“The Ministry of Health and Welfare, Council of Agriculture and many agencies are involved in the food-safety safeguarding effort, but in the end, you need the Ministry of Justice and prosecutors to conduct investigations. So if the office has [a prosecutor] stationed in it, the communication between the prosecution and investigation units and us will be smoother. And as inspection is key to [food safety], we will need their help for that as well,” Chiang said.

Later yesterday at a handover ceremony where he assumed office as health minister, Chiang pledged to restore the nation’s tarnished reputation for food and the public’s faith in the food industry.

“I have to admit that it is a tremendous challenge to take the helm of the ministry at a time when the nation has been repeatedly battered by a string of food scares, which have not only shaken people’s confidence in the nation’s food safety, but also crippled our booming food industry and damaged our international image as the paradise of delicacies,” Chiang said.

Chiang said food safety is a complex issue that requires the concerted efforts of all relevant government agencies, rather than the ministry’s alone, which is the main reason behind the Executive Yuan founding the inter-ministerial Food Safety Office yesterday.

Although food safety is undoubtedly the new minister’s top priority, he said there are many more issues that demand his attention, ranging from the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and a dengue fever outbreak in the south to the second-generation National Health Insurance system and the establishment of a sustainable long-term healthcare system.

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