Mon, Sep 08, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Remarks on food safety cause outrage

‘SHUT UP’:An expert talking for the FDA who described the health risks from eating tainted oil as extremely low has been derided by furious netizens and academics alike

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Contentious remarks made on Saturday by one of the food safety experts invited by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to evaluate the potential health repercussions from the consumption of recycled waste oil has prompted an outpouring of criticism, as well as heated discussions online.

At the center of the controversy is Tunghai University’s Department of Food Science professor Su Jend-de (蘇正德), who said during a press conference on Saturday that the health risks from eating waste oil were “extremely low” and told specialists who have issued health warnings against using the problematic oil to “shut up” unless they could present research results supporting their claims.

“Approximately 247,000kg of recycled waste oil had been released in the local market between March and last month through Greater Kaohsiung-based cooking oil manufacturer Chang Guann Co. Based on the assumption that half of the nation’s 23 million people had consumed the problematic oil, that would be … about 100mg per person per day during that period of about 200 days,” Su said.

“Given that a large amount of the oil would be left in the pan after cooking, each person would eat no more than 30mg per day. Even if that 30mg of waste oil did contain harmful substances such as aflatoxin, the amount would be too little to pose any significant health threat,” he said.

Su’s comments, along with FDA Director-General Yeh Ming-kung’s (葉明功) recent categorization of the food-safety risk posed by the substandard oil under a “green light,” were rebuffed by National Taiwan University law professor Lee Mau-Sheng (李茂生) on Facebook yesterday, who drew a parallel between the oil and human feces.

Under the four-color food-safety risk advisory system implemented by the FDA last year, a “red light” means a food product could pose health risks following short-term consumption; a “yellow” means long-term intake of the product could have detrimental health effects; a “blue” refers to foods that are safe to eat, but are laced with certain substances at an excessive level; and a “green” is generally given to products that do not conform to labeling requirements, but do not pose health hazards.

“I have been left speechless by those academics and government officials who asserted that the chance of the oil damaging the human body is rather low, and that there is no need for panic,” Lee said.

“All I can say is that I take pity on those people who do not eat ‘poop’ even knowing that it does not cause major health problems, since the taxes they have paid to feed those officials and specialists have apparently been a waste,” Lee added.

Scores of netizens have also taken to Professional Technology Temple (PTT) — the nation’s largest academic online bulletin board — to vent their anger over the pair’s remarks.

A netizen going by the pseudonym of “kuloME” wrote: “The real problem is not whether [the waste oil] is safe [to eat], but rather how something that is not even supposed to be used in edible oil ended up there.”

Another netizen with the name “lea109” said it was preposterous that the government was trying to convince the public that the “disgusting oil” they had consumed was harmless, when it should have been making an all-out effort to crack down on unscrupulous businesspeople.

Some Internet users also ridiculed the FDA by urging it to change its name to “Food and Droppings Administration,” with one user saying: “Only when the FDA and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) are willing to eat feces for dinner every day would I consider believing their bullshit that the oil is safe.”

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