Taiwan food safety remains as problematic as ever

The China Post news staff

Taiwan is usually proud of its delicious foods. But are they safe? We may have good recipes and good chefs who can guarantee delicious dishes, but the latest food scare has again shown that food safety in Taiwan remains as problematic as ever. Food safety usually seems to be high on the priority lists of consumers, but it seems like we have little control over it. We trust the suppliers to protect us, but time and time again they have failed us. Tons of recycled oil have been uncovered at a Pingtung factory where products were reprocessed and redistributed through a major supplier, Chang Guann, to many food processing companies, restaurants, night market food stalls and bakeries. The authorities, announcing the crackdown on the rogue suppliers, stressed that Chang Guann’s problematic “fragrant lard oil” was not available in supermarkets or grocery stores. The authorities were apparently trying to play down the impact, distinguishing the present case from last year’s, when substandard cooking oil from brand-name vendors was widely available on ordinary store shelves. But the difference is not making us feel any better, because many of us have probably already consumed some of the disgusting and probably toxic oil that ended up in dishes at restaurants, in snacks at night markets, in bread at bakeries, and in processed foods from brand-name vendors. And again it has shown that big brand-name vendors do not always guarantee the quality of their products. Wei Chuan, a major food manufacturer under the Ting Hsin International Group, has had to recall products made using Chang Guann’s problematic oil. Wei Chuan was also among many other vendors who had to recall products in last year’s cooking oil scare.

These big companies have the resources — and the responsibility — to monitor the quality of products from their suppliers, but clearly they have failed. Are these big companies as innocent as their smaller upstream suppliers who in turn claim they were cheated by suppliers of their own further upstream?