[EDITORIALS]Safe? Unsafe? Who knows?The Food and Drug Administration announced yesterday that “there is no safety problem involving kimchi in the market, including Chinese-made kimchi, as no lead has been found or the amounts found are within permissible limits.” That is confusing, because the agency’s announcement overturns the results of tests by the Seoul Research Institute of Public Health and Environment that triggered a “lead in kimchi” scare when it was announced by Grand National Party lawmaker, Ko Kyung-hwa, a few weeks ago. If the test results of public institutes differ so greatly, how can people trust the government’s soothing words?
The statement that the lead content in Chinese kimchi is three to five times higher than that of Korean products amplified the worries of the people, who generally do not trust the sanitary standards of food imported from China. Every year, Chinese kimchi imports have increased dramatically, and almost half of the restaurants in Seoul and Gyeonggi province serve Chinese kimchi. The shock was far-reaching. Now that the government says there is no safety problem with imported kimchi, who will compensate those Chinese kimchi importers and restaurateurs for the damage to their business? There should be acceptable explanations from the administration and Ms. Ko on the reason why there is such a big difference in the test findings.
To a large degree, sanitary problems with Chinese kimchi resulted from the slipshod food safety administration of the government. Lead is a harmful heavy metal that can damage the central nervous system as it accumulates in the human body. Nevertheless, there is no standard of permissible content in kimchi or other processed food. Therefore, there is no heavy metal content test when imported foodstuffs go through quarantine procedures. Even the certification of origin labeling is not compulsory. So Koreans ate a lot of Chinese kimchi disguised as Korean products without knowing the truth.
From the production stage, quality control was bad. It is horrific to read a report on a visit to a Chinese kimchi factory: rotten machines, cockroach-ridden workshops, dirty raw materials, unsanitary water. Japanese importers demand strict quality control at Chinese factories. The government must protect food safety threatened by ruthless imports of cheap Chinese foodstuff. It must take this as a turning point for food supply management.