Crackdown for the health of citizens

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Crackdown for the health of citizens


I threw away the rice seasoning I had kept in the refrigerator when the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency made an announcement about a crackdown on tainted food products. The police caught a contractor that provided dried vegetables for animal feed and tobacco powder as seasoning ingredients. But the police did not disclose the name of the product that used the repellent materials. Parents who had used rice seasonings to prepare meals for their children panicked, and some supermarkets removed all related products from their shelves. Producers are troubled, and the market became chaotic.

In fact, whenever the prosecution or police disclose serious food-related cases, I personally suspect hidden motives first. My suspicions began in 1997, when the Supreme Court acquitted a company accused of using industrial-grade beef stock in instant noodle products. The 1989 scandal enraged the entire nation. It took eight years to prove that processed beef tallow is edible, and the ingredient used in the instant noodles poses no harm and can be consumed after the refining process. I felt completely shocked by the decision, recalling the fury against the innocent instant noodles. About 1,000 employees lost their jobs, and the company seriously struggled.

And there has been a series of sanitary issues in food. Off the top of my head, I can name the unsanitary dumplings case in 2004, parasitic eggs in kimchi in 2005 and cadmium found in squid in 2010. All these cases initially shocked and enraged the consumers and caused serious damage to the producer, only to be acquitted of all charges in the end.

Lately, we hear of tainted food cases more often. Consumers are disgusted by unsanitary sesame oils, health supplements, eggs and snacks. Ever since President Park Geun-hye named low-quality food as one of the four social vices, the police and government agencies in charge of food safety have been competing to crack down on health code violations. They are eager to disclose unsanitary facilities and low-quality food products.

Of course, unsanitary food should be controlled and eradicated completely, and the purpose should be for the health of the citizens. But provocative crackdowns and disclosures can be more harmful than unsanitary food. I have been watching food-related cases closely, but I threw out the rice seasoning without hesitation because I don’t want to take a chance on health and safety. It is not easy to find peace of mind if I have the slightest doubt about food, which is directly related to health and life.

A society distrustful of food is unstable and unhealthy. It is fortunate that the police are working on a manual that defines the protocol of making the investigation report public after a safety review by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety. It is the duty of the public authorities to make sure the overheated competition to crack down on the four social vices does not hurt the minds of citizens.

* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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