Improving food safety

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Improving food safety

The problems at privately run food safety inspection companies are serious. It is shocking to see how incomplete their work has been since the Korea Food and Drug Administration entrusted them with judging food safety for the nation.

According to materials submitted by the KFDA for National Assembly inspection, a food safety institute in Seoul’s Songpa District issued false inspection reports without testing any products. The institute’s license was canceled as a result. Another institute in Incheon’s Bupyeong District examined sesame seed oil and tested only one out of six required items before giving its stamp of approval.

Ten of 29 food safety institutions have been conducting tests in the same way. The KFDA disqualified them after an evaluation earlier this year. Their low standards clearly show the problems in the country’s food safety system.

No matter how much the government emphasizes safety, it is useless. No matter how much the government tries to strengthen food safety, it is being ignored by the companies that are responsible.

The misconduct at research institutions is close to criminal. The matter should not be left to the KFDA alone but also the Board of Audit and Inspection, and prosecutors should investigate the issue and hold responsible institutions at fault.

The supervisory system for food safety needs to be consolidated. The “melamine scare” dealt a severe blow to the public’s confidence in food safety. The Korean government has not been able to act as quickly and efficiently as other countries because of a complicated supervisory system. The Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs sat with hands tied because they are responsible for different products made from the same problematic ingredient - milk.

Poor food safety management has caused problems at private research institutions. In that sense, the plans discussed yesterday by the government and the ruling Grand National Party to consolidate food safety are belated but right. They should not only be discussed but also implemented. In the past, there were discussions on consolidating the system but the two ministries could not reach a deal because they wanted to protect their respective turfs. An emergency can be an opportunity. Since the melamine scare broke out, the government should establish stronger, more efficient food safety supervision.

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