Melamine lessonsThe global melamine scare has spread to Korea. Two products made under a manufacturing arrangement were imported from China by major food companies and found to contain the chemical.
The contamination was discovered by the Korea Food and Drug Administration when it collected and examined 428 products that contain Chinese-produced milk including biscuits, bread, chocolate and candy. It’s possible that more contaminated products could be discovered as the examination continues.
When there were news reports of people falling victim to melamine-tainted milk on Sept. 11, the government repeatedly said the powdered milk was not imported to Korea. However, with criticism rising over the safety of products containing Chinese-produced milk, the government started an investigation on Sept. 17.
Belatedly, it banned imports of related products after it found two foodstuffs tainted with melamine. The KFDA said it would toughen examinations on all food product imports from China.
This is shocking to the public. There have frequently been safety-related incidents involving imports from China in the last few years. The government’s toughening of inspections is long overdue.
Regarding this incident, we want to ask whether the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the KFDA tried to avoid taking responsibility for the issue and allowed it to go this far.
The Agriculture Ministry is responsible for the safety of meats and dairy products, while the KFDA is responsible for processed foods. Thus, the ministry deals with melamine-tainted powdered milk, while the KFDA deals with biscuits containing the milk. In addition, the Agriculture Ministry examines Chinese butter while the KFDA checks biscuits made with Chinese butter. This has naturally led to confusion over who is responsible for what.
With such confusion, it is difficult for the public to rely on the ministry and the KFDA to ensure the safety of their food.
The organizations should either collaborate or centralize their functions, so that food safety issues can be managed more efficiently in the future.
Companies should also strengthen their safety inspections on factories in China. Companies directly operating such factories said they do not have any problems, but since there are many people concerned with food safety, they should look into the matter more carefully.