Food for thought

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Food for thought

Food safety authorities have a serious moral hazard. The police said Monday that it found 4.3 tons of Chinese-made sausage skins, a product banned for fear of foot-and-mouth disease, disguised as U.S. products that had passed through customs.

The police said that they were investigating people who work at the National Veterinary Research and Quarantine Service but hadn’t taken follow-up measures even though they were aware of the case. They were informed by the U.S. government in mid-July, right after the products passed customs, but didn’t recall the tainted goods because “the customs procedure was over and the Korea Customs Service was then in charge of the case.”

The Korea Food and Drug Administration released its survey on hygiene in warehouses on the same day. The survey reveals that hygiene control on imported food items was not carried out properly. Of 424 warehouses across the country, 44 percent have never conducted hygiene maintenance. Twelve warehouses even held toxic substances such as agricultural chemicals together with imported food products.

This means that the quarantine and warehouse authorities may have helped put imported food polluted with toxic substances or viruses onto our tables.

Koreans have criticized Chinese companies in the past for manufacturing food items that contain toxic substances. But Korean food safety authorities don’t seem much different.

In a survey by Seoul city government, 60 percent of people polled said they didn’t trust the food distribution procedure. The Anti-corruption and Civil Rights Commission released yesterday a list showing the KFDA last among 381 government agencies in terms of perceived integrity.

The administration has intensified food safety standards since the Saeukkang incident when the head of a rat was found in a box of shrimp crackers. But having a good system and regulations are not enough if laws are not applied strictly on site.

The police must investigate the case thoroughly. All parties related to food safety must be monitored to see whether laws and regulations are enforced as they should be.

Food safety is part of the people’s right to life. Public employees who work in the area must have higher than average ethical standards.

It is also important to have a variety of programs to cultivate a sense of duty and ethical values in society.
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