The Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine has introduced regulations prohibiting the sale of impure duck blood cake (鴨血糕) and pig blood cake (豬血糕), setting fines of between NT$30,000 and NT$150,000.
After a September 2010 media report — which later proved to be untrue — stated that the US Department of Agriculture had banned the sale of pig blood cake because of unsanitary manufacturing processes, the Control Yuan launched an investigation into how pig blood is extracted.
Discovering that the bureau had lax regulations and oversight over sanitation and food safety in the blood industry, the Control Yuan in October 2010 censored the bureau over the matter and called for the issue to be addressed.
However, it was not until last month that the bureau released amendments to the Regulations on Slaughter Operations (屠宰作業準則). It also admitted recently that edible pig and duck blood were never laboratory-tested and have been passed by meat inspectors simply by sight and smell.
The amendments ban any blood tainted in the extraction process and include strict rules to avoid excrement contaminating other organs when cleaning out the digestive tract.
However, the responsibility for checking that equipment meets sanitation standards has shifted from veterinarians in the slaughterhouses to medical assistants.
The Consumers’ Foundation has criticized the bureau’s delays to the amendment, saying it is toying with people’s lives.
Foundation secretary-general Lei Li-fen (雷立芬) accused the bureau of neglect, saying that the most crucial regulation needed for any foodstuff was its source.
The bureau should conduct inspections and award certificates for items that pass the inspection, Lei said, adding that the relaxing of regulations to allow medical assistants to handle quality control was lowering food safety standards.
If there is a shortage of qualified inspectors and veterinarians, the bureau should think of other ways to solve the problem rather than sacrificing public food safety, she added.
The bureau has claimed that there are only 280 qualified veterinarians spread over 153 slaughterhouses.
Bureau chief Lin Chin-chung (林進忠) said the bureau had helped improve the process of blood extraction for slaughterhouses.
The vendors are confident that they will not be fined, Lin said, adding that the decision to relax regulations was based on changing times and methods prevalent in other nations.