National Taiwan University Food Safety Recommendations: Establish Traceability in the Food Industry, Implement Tracking Systems, Strengthen the Inspection of Raw Materials, and Strengthen Industry Self-Reliance


The recent outbreak of contaminated oil in Taiwan has damaged the reputation of Taiwan’s food industry and caused the public to lose trust in the safety of Taiwan’s food products. As of September 14, at least 236 products sold domestically have been found to contain contaminated oil sourced from Taiwan, and an additional 155 products have been found to contain contaminated oil imported from Hong Kong. To date, over 370 tonnes of products have been removed from retail shelves. In the wake of the discovery of the widespread use of the contaminated oil, the National Center for Food Safety Education and Research (NCFSER) at National Taiwan University convened a meeting of experts to suggest recommendations for improvements to Taiwan’s food industry. The group has put forth the following recommendations:

First, a food traceability system should be implemented to track ingredient sources in a transparent and consistent manner. The food safety challenges presented by the widespread use of contaminated oil can be partially attributed to an opaque tracking and ingredient sourcing system that heightens uncertainty about the origins and quality of ingredients. High-quality standards, rigorous testing, and regular inspections are controls that should be implemented at all levels of the food processing system. The Ministry of Health and Welfare of the Executive Yuan recently issued a press release stating the need for the food processing industry to establish a food traceability system to track industry activities, and highlighted the edible oil manufacturing industry specifically as a priority group for establishing such a system as soon as October 31 of this year. The food industry should implement a traceability tracking system with detailed records, describing which parties are responsible for which activities and transactions, to protect industry as well as consumer interest.

Second, inspections should be improved at all points along the supply chain, from the source to the finished product. More consistent, systematic, and rigorous inspections will not only help the food industry manage itself, but also to focus on the quality of materials and procurement sources. Unscheduled inspections should occur regularly to ensure food safety and security, especially at ingredient sources to ensure that food entering the processing system meets quality and safety standards.

Third, the self-reliance and self-management capacity of the industry should be strengthened, and cooperation between all levels of the food processing industry should increase in order to collectively guarantee safe ingredients and practices for foods at all aspects of the supply chain. The safety of food products greatly impacts public health, and can affect the health and competitiveness of consumers throughout the country. In addition to government efforts, the food processing industry should have the same philosophy of consideration for public health and should strictly uphold the quality of its own operations to enhance public trust in the supply chain and dramatically improve the reputation of Taiwan’s food industry.

Taiwan is internationally renowned for its cuisine, and the widespread use of contaminated oil has caused consumers to lose confidence in the quality and safety of Taiwan’s food processing industry. Though this crisis is troubling, it presents a great opportunity for action on the part of both the government and industry to enhance the safety and quality of the food industry in Taiwan by increasing food safety. The government, industry, academics, and experts should collaborate to create a safe and high-quality food system in Taiwan.