Mon, Nov 03, 2014 - Page 1 News List

‘Common sense’ to take care of documents: FDA

‘UNTHINKABLE’:The food authority said that documents leaked to Ting Hsin should have been marked ‘classified,’ but all the same, should have been treated confidentially

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Interim Director-General Chiang Yu-mei (姜郁美) yesterday said it should be common sense for civil servants to keep all government documents they handle confidential, in a move to dismiss the Pingtung County Government’s “setting up” accusations.

“The Civil Servant Work Act (公務人員服務法) requires civil servants to hold in strict confidence official documents that are of interest to corporations. This should be common sense,” Chiang told a news conference in Taipei.

Chiang made the remarks one day after Pingtung County Deputy Commissioner Chung Chia-pin (鍾佳濱) accused the Ministry of Health and Welfare of setting up the Democratic Progressive Party-ruled county government in an alleged leak of classified documents to Ting Hsin International Group (頂新國際集團), which lies at the center of the nation’s latest cooking oil scandal.

Chung attributed what he called an “unintentional move” by the county government’s technical specialist Tsai Ching-jung (蔡青蓉) to fax a sensitive document it received from the agency on Oct. 9 to Ting Hsin to the administration’s failure to mark the file “classified.”

Chung based his allegations on the fact that the same documents mailed to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-ruled Changhua County Government were designated as confidential.

The document urged Changhua’s and Pingtung’s health bureaus to inspect Ting Hsin’s cooking oil factory as soon as possible, citing a telegram from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Oct. 9 stating that the oil products Ting Hsin had bought from Vietnamese manufacturer Dai Hanh Phuc Co (大幸福公司) were only intended for animal feed.

Chiang said Tsai’s handling of the document seemed “unthinkable,” because if she intended only to make sure someone was at Ting Hsin’s factory when the bureau inspected the site on the Double Ten National Day holiday, she should have simply notified the company of the inspection, rather than sending it government documents.

“Tsai’s alleged leak of classified documents could have had a profound impact on inspectors’ probe into Ting Hsin’s oil products. While I feel sympathetic to Tsai’s situation, I hope she can stay strong in the face of a judicial investigation into her alleged transgression,” Chiang said.

Chiang said that upon receipt of the confirmation, the FDA immediately suspended imports of lard and beef tallow from Vietnam and sent a total of four e-mails to relevant agencies that evening urging them to inspect Ting Hsin’s company headquarters and factory in Changhua and seal all potentially affected products the next day.

“The first e-mail was sent unencrypted at 5:48pm to the FDA’s Central and Southern Centers for Regional Administration and a carbon copy was sent to the Changhua County Government’s health inspectors,” Chiang said.

Chiang said the next three e-mails were sent encrypted to the agency’s north, central and southern centers, as well as the Changhua county government, at 8:04pm, 8:48pm and 9pm, respectively, to update them on the changes made to the document.

The southern center then forwarded the first e-mail to the director and responsible officials at Pingtung County Government’s Public Health Bureau at 8:38pm, before doing it again at 8:42pm after the latter failed to receive the message, Chiang said.

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