TAIPEI - President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday he is confident that severe penalties will help to improve food safety in Taiwan, just as they did for the prevention of drinking and driving.
Ma attended the 2013 National Food Safety Conference at National Taiwan University yesterday. While there, he pointed out in a speech that heavy penalties have helped to drastically reduce drunk driving incidents.
The government's goal is to re-establish a system that can guarantee the safety of food in Taiwan and rehabilitate the image of Taiwanese food, said Ma.
Ma said that the government should implement effective management of food safety issues. He expressed his support for more severe punishments, saying "I am confident in a close examination and heavy penalty approach."
Ma said that strict laws have reduced drinking and driving incidents over the years. Since the implementation of stricter laws, the number of deaths caused by drinking and driving dropped by 20 per cent last year, Ma said. As the government further increased penalties for drinking and driving and conducted more thorough alcohol tests on roads, the death rate dropped another 35 per cent this year, Ma said.
Other Measures to Curb Inappropriate Conduct
The president also called on businesses to discipline themselves and observe the obligations of business ethics and social responsibility. Although the government and the public will closely monitor businesses' conduct, businesses must also regulate themselves, Ma said.
Ma referred to beef imported from the US in his speech. As American beef was suspected to contain ractopamine, people in Taiwan refused to purchase it. The Council of Agriculture then contacted local pork producers and requested that they sign written pledges indicating that ractopamine was not in their products.
Some pork producers were reluctant to sign the pledge at first. However, after some merchants signed the pledge, more and more followed suit. Therefore, "applying peer pressure among businesses is an important approach," Ma said.
New Procedures to Ensure Food Safety
Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) also took part in yesterday's food safety conference, saying that he was deeply distraught because the recent oil scandal damaged the public's confidence in Taiwanese products.
In the wake of scandals involving plasticizers, poisoned starch and tainted oil, it became clear that it was not sufficient to entrust sole authority for upholding food safety standards to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, Jiang said.
As a result, the Executive Yuan instructed twelve administrative departments, including the Council of Agriculture and the Ministry of Economic Affairs, to form a syndicate examination group. The group will in the future thoroughly investigate consumer products such as rice, oil and salts to filter out tainted products.
Jiang said that it would take some time before the results of the government's new policies and efforts in regulating food safety become evident. Nevertheless, he called on government ministers and officials to carry out new policies until the problem was solved.