Tue, May 25, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Government urged to establish strict criteria for dioxins

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Environmentalists and legislators yesterday urged the government to set up national criteria for dioxin in both fodder and food in order to effectively prevent public health from being jeopardized, as a newly-released government report indicated that several brands of fresh milk contain dioxins at levels exceeding the EU's limits.

According to Green Formosa Front chairman Wu Tung-jye (吳東傑), a report released by the Department of Health (DOH) on April 13 suggests that dioxin levels in three brands of milk exceed the EU's limit, 2 picograms of the World Health Organiza-tion's toxicity equivalent per gram of fat (expressed as 2pg WHO-TEQ/g fat).

At a press conference held yesterday at the Legislative Yuan, Wu, environmentalists, and legislators jointly released a digest of the report regarding potential threats to public health.

The digest indicates that dioxin levels of three popular brands are 3.28 pg WHO-TEQ/g fat, 2.45 pg WHO-TEQ/g fat and 2.08 pg WHO-TEQ/g fat respectively.

"We don't quite understand why health officials did not publish the names of these irresponsible brands. Instead, they stayed very low-keyed and said people would not absorb threatening levels of dioxins, because of Taiwanese diet habits," Wu said.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Eugene Jao (趙永清) said the public has the right to learn the truth.

"Especially, we need to clarify sources of dioxin in milk in order to ensure the reputation of Taiwanese dairy industry," Jao said.

In addition, Jao said that Cabinet needs to set up a taskforce involving diverse agencies to establish national criteria for dioxin in not only food but also fodder.

Hsiao Tung-ming (蕭東銘), deputy director of the DOH's Bureau of Food Safety, said at the press conference that Taiwan had established temporary criteria for years.

"Since such dioxin levels pose no immediate danger and the lack of national criteria, it's unnecessary to publicize names of milk producers," Hsiao said.

However, environmental groups strongly expressed their opposition against the DOH's intention to settle disputes.

Her-lin Hsieh (謝和霖) of the Taiwan Watch Institute (看守台灣協會) said the DOH's attitude falls behind global trends because newly implemented Stockholm Convention, a global treaty designed to protect the environment from POPs (persistent organic pollutants), indicates that information pertaining to human health and environmental safety should not be concealed from the public.

"It's very ironic that Taiwan had proposed entry into the World Health Organization but officials' attitudes were so conservative," Hsieh said.

Eric Liou (劉銘龍), secretary-general of the Environmental Quality Protection Foundation, said that key problems could be attributed to the lack of national criteria for dioxin in Taiwan.

Liou said that the DOH seemed to understate potential dangers resulting from long-term exposure to dioxin for babies, children and expectant mothers

"If such essential information remains unavailable to the public, what else can we taxpayers expect from the government?" Liou said.

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