Steps will be taken to ensure the safety of Chinese medicinal herbs imported from China as soon as the two sides forge a food-safety agreement, an official at the Department of Health (DOH) said on Friday.
Food safety is one of the major issues on the agenda of next week’s talks between Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤), chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation, and Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), chairman of China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait.
The issue took center stage with the exposure last month of a toxic milk powder scandal in China that swiftly led to global concern over substandard food products produced in China.
Lin Yi-hsin (林宜信), chairman of the DOH Committee on Chinese Medicine and Pharmacy, said that once the two sides seal the food safety agreement, the committee will seek quality certification for all medicinal herbs imported from China.
Taiwan consumes more than 10,000 tonnes of medicinal herbs, which are used in traditional Chinese medical treatment and as culinary ingredients.
While 90 percent of these herbs, in a wide variety, are imported from China, it has been difficult for health authorities to control the quality because there is no clear channel between the two sides for the management of herbal medicine, Lin said.
The quality of China-produced medicinal herbs on the market is mixed, the official said, adding that quite often such imports are found to contain toxic substances like aflatoxin and heavy metals.
However, the problem will be addressed if the two sides sign the agreement on food safety, Lin said, adding that Chinese medicinal herbs are categorized as food products.
Lin said that the DOH committee has been making efforts in recent years to promote the management of Chinese medicinal ingredients.
It recently completed work on the proper labeling of these products, and is currently working to set standards on the permissible levels of toxic substances in medicine herbs, he said.
The committee will later concentrate on ensuring the safety of medicinal herb sources in China, Lin said.
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