Taiwan's food safety office opens amid scandals

Kuomintang (KMT) legislators hold a press conference in the Legislative Yuan.

TAIPEI, Taiwan - The Executive Yuan's new food safety office officially opened yesterday, staffed with prosecutors to speed up the process of rooting out tainted food production.

Aside from transferring officials from the Executive Yuan, the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW), the Council of Agriculture (COA) and the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Taiwan High Prosecutors Office lent its prosecution as a part of the new team. Health Minister Chiang Been-huang will be instructing the office team of approximately 20 to 25 professionals, the Cabinet announced yesterday.

“Food safety issues are ultimately handled by the Ministry of Justice; the supporting prosecutors will assist us in communicating with the justice-prosecution system in the future,” explained Chiang.

Much public attention has gone to the National Security Bureau's (NSB) possible decision to gather information regarding food safety loopholes, to which the NSB responded by announcing future “warning reports.”

The NSB has reportedly completed its structured plan for information integration; Chiang stated that the department will be responsible for notifying the government of food scandals, thus allowing efficient control on the government's part.

“As for the underground factories that are out of the MHW's reach, the National Police Agency will be in charge of investigations and the ultimate clampdown,” said Chiang.

“The new office's final goal is to prevent (the food scares) from happening, and we hope that tainted food production won't happen again. If it does, the office will be there to cut down the damage.”

Former Cabinet Unit Upgraded

The office is an upgraded version of the Executive Yuan's former food safety promotion team; the upgrade is only a slight adjustment in structure and scale, said Chiang, who pointed out that the adjustment did not cause a gap in the office's operations.

The four main functions of the office are the integration of probe results, department negotiation, consumer communication as well as serving as an information platform, said Chiang.

“It is generally a central command for other front-line government departments, like the MHW and the COA; the entire food safety system will be able to operate on a brisker pace.”

Aside from combining information communication technologies, the food office will be taking taxation information into account as well, said Chiang.

According to President Ma Ying-jeou, who had initially ordered the establishment of the said office, the newest food safety promotion unit will be mimicking the operation of crisis intervention teams acting after both natural and man-made disasters.