Trust must be earnedConsumers have become fearful about the food and products they consume as they find state authorities incompetent and unreliable in ensuring the safety of groceries. Eggs were tainted with pesticides, sanitary pads let out volatile organic compounds harmful to the body and sausages containing G3-2 hepatitis E strain have been imported.
State authorities must act fast to investigate toxic substances in grocery stores and come up with ways to ensure safety and contain consumer jitters. So far, we have seen little of it. The series of controversies underscore how unreliable and impotent the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety is.
Its minister Ryu Young-in has been making things worse. He drew criticism from the media and lawmakers for showing little knowledge on the controversy over pesticide-contaminated eggs. He complained when Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon scorned him, put the blame on his staff and whined about the press being hard on him.
The ministry’s slow and lax response to the series of consumer product scandals has aggravated public anxieties. The state authority in charge of safeguarding public health went on to claim there is no harm in eating 2.6 pesticide-contaminated eggs every day. Experts were appalled. An environment and health association issued a statement warning the eggs should be addressed as potential hazards for chronic illness. The doctors’ association also released a separate statement advising the government not to jump to conclusions as pesticide residue is not harmful to human bodies, based on acute toxicity tests.
The agency has been equally irresponsible and sloppy in dealing with the controversy over female sanitary pads. The pads made by Lilian, which have been accused of causing various menstrual side effects, were cleared by the ministry. Its case shows how unreliable the ministry’s toxicity tests and quality control have been. People are now questioning if they can go on using tissues and baby pads.
President Moon Jae-in has repeatedly promised to build a country where people can feel safe. But his words and government cannot be trusted when they go on defending Ryu, who has been at the center of controversy. Public safety is too valuable for an incompetent person to be at the head of food and drug safety control. The government must prove to the public that it can be trusted.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 25, Page 30