National Taiwan University Food Safety Recommendations: Government Should Control the Flow of Raw Material Sources to Eradicate Contamination


On September 13, the National Center for Food Safety Education and Research (NCFSER) at National Taiwan University held an expert meeting to discuss ways to mitigate and prevent food safety incidents, such as the challenges concerning contaminated oil currently confronting Taiwan. This expert meeting concluded that effective government control, regulation, and inspection of the sources of raw food ingredient materials used in food processing is essential for the safety of Taiwan’s food processing industry. In order to prevent similar incidents from recurring in the future, the experts highlighted a need for government implementation of a thorough and comprehensive inspection system of all imported food ingredient materials.

Food safety incidents such as the recent widespread use of contaminated oil can ignite cycles of consumer panic and mistrust in the food system. The recent case of contaminated oil involved many well-known and long-running establishments and organizations, and not only jeopardized the safety of Taiwan’s food industry and possibly the health of consumers, but also damaged Taiwan’s reputation internationally. The fact that the government conducted a thorough review of food safety issues last year and subsequently moved to modify food safety certification methods through amendments to the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation makes these recent events even more unexpected. NCFSER invited a group of experts to discuss potential actions to strengthen Taiwan’s food safety system and safeguard the health of consumers.

Conclusions of the meeting have been summarized into the following four-point proposal. First, government oversight, regulation, and inspection of the sources of raw for ingredient materials is essential for food safety. Equally important are thorough inspections and rigorous standards for all materials imported into Taiwan, in order to properly maintain separation and distinction between food-grade and non-food-grade materials, prevent incidents such as the recent contamination of alcohol with illegal non-food-grade red pigments. Risk and hazard analysis – including specific and targeted tests for heavy metals, aflatoxins, polypropylene amide, as well as other contaminants – should be conducted at all levels of the food chain.

Second, interagency linkages between government entities need to be strengthened in order to maximize efficiency and effectiveness of government action. The Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Health and Wellness, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency, as well as law enforcement agents as needed, such as the National Investigation Agency, must cooperate and clarify responsibilities in order to effectively manage waste disposal, flows of raw food ingredient materials, chemicals, and other hazardous materials to avoid confusion and possible contamination.

Third, comprehensive, rigorous, and random inspections need to be regularly conducted at all levels of the food processing system by a team of cross-ministry inspectors in order to maintain effective oversight of food safety across the food system. Fourth, the experts recommend the establishment of a complete food safety database in order to be able to more effectively adapt to and mitigate future food safety incidents. Continual assessment and food safety risk analysis, including long-term planning and research, are essential for food safety.