What to Do about Lead-injected Crabs?The public‘s general mistrust of the safety of imported food was dramatically increased after the discovery of lead nuggets in some frozen blue crab and blowfish imported from China. In addition to fisheries products, Korea imports an ever-growing amount of Chinese medicinal and agricultural products. During the first seven months of this year, agricultural imports from China amounted to $244 million (477,000 tons), which surpasses imports for the entire year of 1999 (460,000 tons). With the flood of imported food products, it is time that the government took special measures for Chinese-produced food products.
First of all, the government must learn the truth about the lead nuggets in crabs and blowfish. Rather than concentrating on a domestic investigation, the government should cooperate with Chinese authorities to find out who injected the lead and why. Only a thorough investigation will discourage similar incidents from occurring.
Next, the government must strengthen its food safety procedures in other countries through diplomatic action. Many nations impose strict standards on imported foodstuff in the interests of the general public. They do not allow imports unless the exporting countries offer safe food. Until now, the Korean Food and Drug Administration (KFDA) has officially recognized 29 overseas inspection institutions in six nations -- the United States, Australia, Thailand, Germany, Finland, and Taiwan. In a similar measure, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (MOMAF) signed a contract with Vietnam in July this year. Yet, these devices are far from sufficient. In particular, there is no good safety measure for Chinese products.
In order to improve the safety of imported food, it is necessary to examine the framework of inspection and management. For instance, is the current management system, divided between the KFDA and the MOMAF, effective? In addition, Korean fisheries officials are stationed in China, but there are no food inspectors dispatched to China to collect information on harmful foods.
It is time that the government elevates its food safety standards to meet public expectations. In sum, what is required are a reinforced inspection system, domestic and overseas and heightened awareness about food safety by merchants.
by Noh Jae-hyun