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[Editorial] The Real Threat to Public Health

Posted September. 26, 2008 07:35,   


Melamine has been found in two snacks sold under the label of a popular Korean confectionary maker but produced in China. This shows Korea is not immune to the Chinese food scare. The Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry recalled the two snacks after finding melamine in them and banned the import of Chinese milk formula and all biscuits containing Chinese milk. The ban is meaningless, however, because consumers already consumed the products.

When the food scandal over tainted infant formula broke out in China, a Korean government agency denied that the product was imported by Korea. After media reports raised the possibility of tainted Chinese food, the agency began inspecting chocolate and biscuits containing Chinese powdered milk. As the food scare began to spread throughout the world, the agency belatedly added the processed food items containing Chinese milk to its inspection list. The Korean government is always late when it comes to inspecting harmful Chinese food.

First, China must change. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao Tuesday gave a formal apology in New York, two weeks after the scandal broke out. Beijing knew that San Lu powdered milk contained melamine early last month but kept it secret to prevent an adverse effect on the Beijing Olympics. The major victims of this scandal have been babies. The Chinese government deserves criticism, and thus should do its best to secure food safety the same way it prepared for the Olympics.

Chinese-made food has been a mainstay in Korea for a long time. Most food used in Korean restaurants is imported from China but Korea’s inspection and distribution system is not adequate enough to deal with it. Inspection of Chinese food must be more thorough and country of origin must be clearly written for consumers. Country of origin, which is generally written in fine print on the corner, should also be written in larger letters.

Also conspicuous is the silence on Chinese-made food by the main opposition Democratic Party, which had united with civic groups that spread false mad cow disease rumors on U.S. beef and used violence in the name of public health.