Partners in crime

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Partners in crime

The discovery of pesticide contamination on egg farms has been shocking. Of 683 so-called environmentally-friendly farms, tainted eggs were discovered at 62. Compared with four out of 193 ordinary farms, the number is overwhelming. Some eggs had traces of a pesticide not allowed to be used with animals headed for the food chain. The scandal underscores the extent of moral hazard of some farmers.

At the same time, the government’s laxity in ensuring food safety is appalling. The process of issuing environmentally-friendly certification is unclear. One farm in Gwangju had eggs containing chemicals just 10 days after it won organic certification. The private agency allowed to issue the certification stamped the eggs without a thorough inspection. The state authority has made fools out of consumers who paid more for organic food because they believed in state certification.

The government must share the blame with the farmers in the tainted egg scandal. Warning signs were revealed during legislative questioning of government agencies last year. In an April seminar attended by ministry and food agency officials, the Consumers Union of Korea disclosed its analysis that two out 51 egg samples contained the insecticides fipronil and bifenthrin. Government officials were obviously aware of chemical contamination of eggs, but did not take immediate action.

They instead supplied pesticides to farms — including organic farms — without warning about their dangers. Some farms had to be double-checked in recent inspection because the initial probes had been sloppy. What that means is that the scandal was made worse by the government. Authorities must come up with radical improvements in their inspections to regain consumer confidence in the safety of Korea’s food.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 18, Page 30
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