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Food Management-Coordinating Body to Be Created

Posted February. 14, 2005 22:36,   


An organization will be set up that manages and coordinates overall policies regarding food products.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare said on February 14 that it would launch a commission on food safety policies so that it can manage food products with ease and take immediate action when problems occur.

The commission will be headed by the Prime Minister and have 20 members including ministers and private experts. The Ministry of Health and Welfare intends to submit a basic bill on food safety to the National Assembly next month.

How the bill was drawn up-

At present, there exist 24 measures on food products like the Food Sanitation Act, the Livestock Processing Act and the Drinking Water Management Act. Nevertheless, each ministry is in charge of each varying act, becoming helpless with food management and serious food problems.

Among the most glaring examples was back in 2000 when blue crabs poisoned with lead were imported from China. The Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, the Korea Food & Drug Administration and local governments, at that time, passed the buck to one another, saying they were not responsible for the case, eventually letting leaded crabs appear on Korean consumers’ dinner tables.

Things were not much different when the nation was hit hard by dioxin-infected pork and the mad cow disease scare. At such times, even if the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, being responsible for processes from import to sales in large butcher shops, imposes an embargo on the import of food, the meat in question is sold in the market. That is because, although it is the same meat, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry takes charge of meat sold in butcher shops and the Food & Drug Administration takes charge of the meat in supermarkets.

What is worse, there is no way to see what happens in the distribution process once the meat in question passes customs entry. On many occasions, the production place of meat changes and imported food is labeled as Korean, as there is no system in place that traces the distribution channel and production place of each food product.

More frequent than that is when the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is responsible in cases where processed food includes more than 50 percent of meat, and the Food & Drug Administration is responsible when the product contains less than 50 percent. As for sausages, the Korea FDA manages additions to sausages, but the ministry is in charge of sausages per se.

Such confusion among ministries has resulted in late reactions to serious food scandals like the last "unwholesome dumpling scandal," affecting innocent consumers.

Content of the bill-

Upon the creation of the commission, the above-mentioned problems are likely to be improved for the most part. The commission will take a central role in mapping out basic plans for food safety management, formulating laws and regulations, criteria and requirements in relation to food safety, creating comprehensive, coordinative evaluations of main policies for food safety, and review and adjust overall reaction plans in case of grave food safety crises.

It will also work to prevent confusion in tasks among ministries.

For that purpose, the bill recommends a set-up of basic plans for food safety management every three years, a system to trace the production, manufacture, processing, import, distribution, cooking, sale and history of food, food safety standards and a prior study of risks in times of establishment and revision of standard requirements.

Another coordinating body will be created to coordinate conflicts when one suffers corporal or financial damage from harmful food products.

However, it will take a long time before the food management system is completed even if the bill passes the National Assembly, as 24 laws and regulations ministries have been in charge of should be revised to meet the purpose of the basic bill.

An official from the Ministry of Health and Welfare predicted, “It will take at least one year before all related laws and regulations are newly set up.”

Sang-Hoon Kim corekim@donga.com