With reports of contaminated and misleadingly labeled foods having made headlines several times over the past few years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday said it has formed a 38-strong “special food and drug inspection squad” as part of its efforts to alleviate growing public concern about food safety.
The FDA’s top priority is to crack down on problematic foods to restore the public’s confidence in the safety and quality of locally manufactured foods, drugs and medical instruments, agency Director-General Yeh Ming-kung (葉明功) told a press conference.
“After six months of training and preparation, the special inspection squad is now ready to join forces with local health departments to investigate any potentially tainted and illegal food and medicine products,” Yeh said.
FDA Deputy Director-General Chiang Yu-mei (姜郁美), who serves as the “commander-in-chief” of the squad, said the inspection team is scheduled to carry out 17 food and drug inspection missions in the following six months and at least one mission each month afterwards, along with 607 professional inspectors from health departments nationwide.
“In the past, food had been the FDA’s sole target of inspection. However, this year, we have expanded the scope of inspections to also include medicines, cosmetics, medical instruments and controlled drugs,” Chiang said.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) said the formation of the squad was the government’s first step in battling rampant irregularities in the food and medical industries.
“The country has suffered enough from food scares in the past and it is high time that we move from reactive to proactive thinking,” Chiu said. “From now on, food safety violators will be dealt with quickly, and be subject to the severest and heaviest penalties.”
In related news, several FDA officials conducted an impromptu inspection of a hypermarket in Taipei’s Nangang District (南港) yesterday — the first day that new labeling regulations for milk, beverages and rice vermicelli products took effect.
“Under the new regulations, extended shelf life milk products must be labeled as ‘long-life milk’ (保久乳), while beverages that claim to contain fruit and vegetable juice or have images of fruit or vegetables printed on the package must clearly display the percentage of real juice content,” said Feng Jun-lan (馮潤蘭), director of the agency’s Northern Center for Regional Administration who led the inspection.
Pointing to a bottle of Apple Sidra (蘋果西打), a popular soft drinks brand, Feng said the beverage would have violated the new regulations if it was not manufactured before yesterday, as it is labeled as containing real apple juice, but fails to specify how much juice it actually contains.
Turning to rice vermicelli products, Feng said all of the rice noodles sold in the hypermarket have either changed their names to “mixed rice vermicelli” (調和米粉), which suggests it contains more than 50 percent rice, or “steamed vermicelli” (炊粉) if it has less than 50 percent rice.
The regulations only allow rice noodles made of 100 percent rice to be marketed as “rice vermicelli” (米粉), Feng added.
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