[Letters]Mix it up!

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[Letters]Mix it up!

Not long ago, China’s melamine food contamination scandal shocked the world.

This is not just China’s problem. Recently, a different type of food concern has arisen in Korea. In October 2008, a TV program investigated 20 restaurants and found that 16 of those (80 percent) reuse food that had already been served to others. In Seocho-gu, a district in southern Seoul, it was found that more than 90 percent of 200 restaurants in the area reuse food. Expensive restaurants were not an exception to this practice.

Korean food is customarily served with many side dishes. Some of the practices include dicing leftover kimchi and reusing it for the next customer’s kimchi stew; leftover rice is boiled for the next customer’s nuroongji soup (soup made from the crust of overcooked rice). Such a practice is unhygienic and creates a dangerous opportunity for the transfer of germs and serious diseases from one person to another.

The government immediately reacted to this shocking news. Seocho-gu has initiated the Safe & Clean Food campaign which includes encouraging customers to take leftover food home and certifying restaurants that do not reuse food. On Nov. 26, the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs, recognizing the seriousness of [the practice of] reusing food in eateries, proposed to amend the content and regulations of the Food Sanitation Act.

Under the proposed revision, as previewed recently, if a restaurant reuses food, a one month suspension of business shall be imposed upon the first violation, a two month suspension for the second violation, and if the violation occurs three times within one year the business will be shut down or its business license canceled. The ministry also plans to reward whistleblowers because reusing food is done secretly in the kitchen.

The law will work better if the names of the restaurants caught reusing food are published. Under Article 39-4 of the current enforcement decree of the Food Sanitation Act, the name of a restaurant that has violated the Food Sanitation Act must be published on the Internet or in daily newspapers. So there is a legal basis for informing the people which restaurants they should not patronize unless they want to eat trash.

It may continue forever as long as many customers want to eat out as much as they can and restaurant owners want to make as much profit as possible. Think carefully before going to a restaurant that serves a lot of side dishes at a low price. Don’t take too much food - take only the amount you can eat.

Best of all, mix up all the leftover food when you leave the restaurant. This will probably work much more effectively than adding another provision to the Food Sanitation Act.

Kim Yuho (Richard), a U.S. certified attorney, yhkim@lawlogos.com

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