Food's protective fence should be stronger still

Food's protective fence should be stronger still
The frozen meat section of a supermarket
PHOTO: ST

It is unbelievable but true: 800 tons of smuggled frozen meat that customs officers uncovered had been kept in storage for as long as 40 years. The meat, including beef, duck necks and chicken feet, is definitely unhealthy to eat, but it was meant to sneak its way onto the dining tables of Chinese consumers.

The inedible meat was intercepted in Changsha, capital of Hunan province, Central China. While we are obliged to the customs officers who blocked such unhealthy food from ending up on our dining tables, the fear that some of the meat or similar inedible food stuffs may have been sneaked past customs somewhere sends chills down our spine.

The meat joins the long list of unsafe foods uncovered in recent years, which includes baby formula with melamine, duck eggs poisoned by toxic additive of Sudan III, sausages made of pork from sick pigs, seafood soaked in chemicals and cooking oil recycled from swill oil.

Why does one unsafe food after another show up in the market? Why is it so easy for rotten chicken wings or pigs' feet to find their way into the food market?

It is reported that there are organised groups engaged in smuggling unsafe food into the country. In June alone, 21 organised groups engaged in the smuggling of frozen meat have been uncovered nationwide, and more than 100,000 tons of unsafe meat has been confiscated. The members of such gangs exchange information through social media platforms and likely bribe customs officers or food inspectors to get the unsafe food they are peddling into the market.

To protect us from unsafe food, we've got customs, industry and commerce departments, public security, quarantine officials and so on. We also have a newly amended food safety law that will take effect from Oct 1 this year.

But it seems that the fence is not strong enough to keep unsafe food away from our dining tables. Certainly, many consumers do not have confidence in these watchdogs. We know it takes time to build an impregnable fence, but the government needs to seize the day and the hour in doing a better job in cracking down on food safety crimes and leave no room for such crimes to be committed.

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