Another food safety scareMore food imports have been found to be contaminated. It was recently revealed that condensed beef stock products from China contain clenbuterol, a drug that can cause heart disease even if just a small amount is ingested.
Beef broth concentrate is used in Korean foods such as galbitang and seolleongtang, soup dishes that are commonly found on the menu in restaurants, and cooked with various kinds of seasoning.
Most of the contaminated soup was imported from China. This year, 103 processed food items totaling 827 tons have been imported from China, but the government has confiscated only 331 tons for inspection. That means the remaining 496 tons have already been consumed.
The government says that it responded to the incident quickly by disposing of all the items that contained the drug and banning imports of the product. But what about those who have already eaten seolleongtang made with the product without knowing about the risks involved?
One wonders why this had to happen again, despite controversies about the safety of Chinese food products breaking out many times before. The National Veterinary Research and Quarantine Service under the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries says there are difficulties with inspecting everything that comes into the country. The agency tested 11 samples of the beef soup products and did not find any problem, so it allowed the products to circulate in Korea. When clenbuterol was found in two samples on April 6, the ministry conducted additional tests. The problem is that the government was reported to have known the drug had been used in China to increase the percentage of lean meat in livestock. It should then have taken more samples for testing, if not all items.
As borders that separate countries continue to blur, it is important that we ensure the safety of imported foods. Unfortunately, authorities seem to only devise temporary measures whenever problems arise. Cheese tainted with dioxin and Chinese eel containing malachite green are two that come to mind, but let’s not forget the more recent melamine scare. When that happened, the Korea Food and Drug Administration and the Ministry for Food, Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries were slow to respond and tried to pass off their responsibility.
We can’t leave our health to these people.
Other countries such as Japan and the United States are reportedly working to improve food safety. We, too, need an efficient system for managing food safety, for example by unifying the related agencies, before it’s too late.