On 24 December, the Executive Yuan’s Office of Food Safety (OFS) held a video conference to evaluate food safety policies to improve Taiwan’s food safety controls. There were approximately 160 participants, including those from relevant government agencies such as the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW), Ministry of Education (MOE), Council of Agriculture (COA), and EPA. Others were the OFS committee members, scholars, experts, and civil and industrial organization representatives. Ideas and opinions were gathered to improve various relevant measures for food safety controls.
At the meeting, the MOHW discussed the results of sanitation and safety controls for can factories and food products. Policies are reviewed on a rolling basis with strengthened audits and inspections to ensure enterprises engage actively in self-management. All policies reflect the government’s resolve to uphold food safety in order to ultimately achieve and maintain health and dietary safety of the public.
Looking back at past incidents involving eggs and egg products, the COA reviewed its collaboration with the Executive Yuan on the interdepartmental improvement plan for the egg and liquid egg industry. Via communication and consensus with the industry, the industry has been assisted to gradually improve source tracking, formulate egg printing measures, and build protocols for cleaned and sorted eggs and non-cleaned-and-sorted ones to be carried out in stages. It was preannounced on 18 June 2021 and then announced on 17 September that cleaned and sorted fresh eggs are listed as produce mandated to be registered to trace their origins. The announced content, with a complete set of data required for registration and labeling, will take effect on 1 January 2022.
The MOE works to ensure that elementary and middle school students are provided with a steady supply of diverse, local produce that is clearly sourced, high quality, and secure. Another aim is to help schools in remote regions obtain needed food ingredients. Therefore, the efforts focus on solving these schools’ problems like low budgets for food by helping them set up central kitchens or joint procurement networks with other schools and subsidizing costs for food, needed kitchen staff, and shipping. It has also resulted in lighter administration burdens for school staff in charge of lunch. Furthermore, the MOE actively joins hands with relevant agencies to enhance the quality of school lunch in schools in remote regions. The COA will keep assisting farmers to produce quality and traceable agricultural, fish, livestock, and poultry products and properly implement source controls. Its collaboration with the MOE will continue to jointly solve problems by matching suppliers with schools and improving and optimizing collection, storage, and shipping facilities.
To ensure food safety from the start, the EPA works with other agencies in joint sampling and response measures to trace to the source. Chemical substances with potential risks to food safety are listed as concerned substances after assessment. Since 2017, over 3,000 visits have been conducted every year to enterprises manufacturing or selling chemical substances. The EPA also first screens out those manufacturing or selling chemical substances with high risks to food safety that are also sold as food additives and then conducts joint audits. The results have yet to find evidence of toxic chemical substances entering the food industry, showing that current efforts effectively strengthen source controls on these substances and ensure the safety of production environments and food products.
Participants all appreciated the chance to exchange ideas during the review, providing various suggestions concerning food safety policies as references for the government’s future policies. Key points of these suggestions and opinions are as follows:
1. The MOHW´s suggestions involved improvement on control measures for canned food, implementation of random inspections on school lunch, and food poisoning prevention. Besides the continual improvement of food safety controls and strengthened assistance for enterprises, the MOHW will ensure that all measures are implemented properly via interdepartmental collaboration in order to protect consumers´ dietary safety.
2. The COA promotes the practice of egg printing as it provides consumers with complete information and options during purchase and helps source tracing and food safety controls. Scholars and experts suggested that egg cleaning and sorting follow regulations and guidelines set by the COA and the MOHW, and that eggs not cleaned and sorted be ink-printed as soon as possible. There will be continuous efforts to assist enterprises in cleaning and sorting and facilitate communication across the industry in hopes of bringing clean, safe quality egg products to consumers.
3. The MOE will look through experts’ suggestions on food supply and transportation for school lunches, central kitchens, and relevant inspections and collaborate with the COA and MOHW. The aim is to keep enhancing lunch quality in rural schools , ensuring a steady and safe food supply so that kids in remote areas have equal access to excellent diets. And in line with the MOE’s school lunch policy, food in the supply chain for rural schools is certified with the CAS Labels (Taiwan Premium Agricultural Products), Traceable Agricultural Products Label (TAPs), and Taiwan Organic Labels, and assigned with QR Codes for origin tracing. Other measures include matching local produce with qualified suppliers, enhancing food quality at the production end, and helping solve problems encountered by remote schools.
4. After its establishment, the EPA’s Toxic and Chemical Substances Bureau (TCSB) has since 2017 listed 27 substances with potential risks to food safety, such as maleic anhydride and rhodamine B, as Class 4 Toxic Chemical Substances. Enterprises are mandated to have their products registered and labeled with safety data prepared for use. It is necessary to acquire approval documents, and products are prohibited to be transferred or sold on online platforms. On the experts’ reminder of the possible occurrence of the toxic starch (maleic anhydride) incidents in the future, the TCSB will keep working with the MOHW to prevent the chemical from systematically entering the food production chain by tightening inspections during holidays.
The sanitation and safety management chain for food products requires collaboration among different government agencies and across professional fields. All involved departments will continue to work together to establish a perfect management system to ensure food safety and create a win-win-win for the government, enterprises, and consumers.
Excerpt from Major Environmental Policies, January 2022
- Environmental Protection Administration, R.O.C.(Taiwan)