Chinese Import Scandals Highlight Flaw in Gov't Food Safety Checks

      April 08, 2009 11:10

      Double-checking the safety of products from China is normal these days. Low quality talc imported from China recently caused another scandal, not to mention the melamine, lead, and egg incidents that have shocked us. Their frequency might be inevitable, as Korea imports 80 percent of its raw ingredients for processed food from China. As Korea can rely on itself for only 28 percent of the food it needs, with the exception of rice, it is perhaps rational to use Chinese products.

      Korea is not the only country that relies on China for foodstuff. Hong Kong brings most of its ingredients in from mainland China, and Japan also imports a significant portion of its food from China, but neither has endured a serious food scandal. This seems to reflect a fundamental flaw in the food safety management system of the Korean government.

      A researcher at the Korea Food Drug and Administration tests products for asbestos.

      Japan, Hong Kong and the European Union apply the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point system -- a preventative system of safety inspections used at all stages of food production and preparation processes -- to almost all foods.

      But Korea applies the HACCP system to only 487 items in seven food groups, such as ice cream or food in retort packaging. This accounts for only two percent of food items made by over 25,000 food processing companies. The Korean system is focused on reacting to accidents rather than preventing them. Experts advise that rigorous preventive measures should be in place to ensure the safety of food.

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