Food safety is a top priority in Taiwan’s governance efforts. For better food safety control, the central government has been implementing a food-safety policy with five features since June 2016. The five features are source control, reestablishment of production control, strengthening of inspection, increase of liability for unscrupulous food manufacturers, and public oversight of food safety. They serve as the guidelines to enhance food safety in Taiwan and, through inter- agency and cross-disciplinary collaboration, help bring together the government, industries, and the public to safeguard the safety of food from farms to dining tables.
The first aspect of the food safety policy is a collaborative effort among various government agencies. In 2013, the Executive Yuan convened relevant agencies to identify 57 chemical substances with food safety concerns that have been associated with food safety incidents in Taiwan and neighboring countries. These substances include three agro-pesticides regulated by
the Agro-pesticides Management Act (農藥管理法) and eight toxic chemicals regulated by the Toxic and Concerned Chemical Substances Control Act (毒性及關注化學物質管理法).
Starting from 2016, the former EPA’s Toxic and Chemical Substances Bureau, now the Chemical Administration (CA) under the MOENV, has been actively evaluating other substances. The CA listed 13 substances including rongalite as toxic in 2017, as well as seven substances including Sudan Red G (and a total of 14 items including other types of Sudan dyes) as toxic chemical substances in 2018. Subsequently, on 20 August 2021, hydrofluoric acid was announced as a hazardous chemical substance of concern after evaluation, followed by five substances including lead monoxide also announced as such on 12 January 2023.
As for other chemical substances posing potential food safety risks, those that are pre-industrial chemicals not to be used in food production, are regulated by the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA). Those under the same category as food additives and food- cleansers are managed by the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) according to the Standards for Specification, Scope,
Application and Limitation of Food Additives (食品添加物使用範圍及限量暨規格標準) and
the Sanitation Standards for Food Cleansers (食品用洗潔劑衛生標準). Both sets of standards are under the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation (食品安全衛生管理法). Nevertheless, the MOENV’s CA continues to monitor these substances.
Source control: Over 3,000 visits a year to enterprises handling chemical ingredients
To enhance source control of chemical substances with potential food safety risks, since 2017 the CA, in collaboration with local governments, has conducted over 3,000 visits annually to enterprises handling chemical ingredients. These efforts are to ensure proper implementation of four major controls. The first is separated storage of chemical raw materials and food additives. The second is clear labeling, which chemical raw material packaging is to clearly indicate prohibition for use in food, drugs, feed, fertilizers, and other purposes. The next is detailed information on usage, which sellers are required to inquire about the purpose of purchase for 57 identified chemical substances with potential food safety risks and caution buyers against using them in food. The final aspect is records for flow tracking, keeping records including buyer information, transaction volumes, and inventory levels. These measures collectively serve to prevent chemical substances with potential food safety risks from entering into the food supply chain. The CA regularly convenes meetings with the MOEA, the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), and the MOHW to assess and propose recommendations for adding new chemical substances with potential food safety risks. They would address the possibility of abuse or misuse of these substances in the food supply chain, which could pose a risk to human health. These discussions also explore reasons for tightening inter-agency controls outside the regulatory framework in order to better control such chemical substances.
Controls tightened for emerging psychoactive substances, explosive precursors, and those listed under international conventions
In addition to chemical substances with potential food safety risks, the CA has strengthened controls on emerging psychoactive substances, explosive precursors, and substances listed under international conventions. Nitrous oxide (laughing gas), prone to abuse by youths, and its ingredient ammonium nitrate was declared as chemical substances of concern in 2019 and 2020, enhancing control measures to prevent abuse. Hydrogen fluoride (hydrofluoric acid) was listed as a hazardous chemical substance of concern in 2021. And on 12 January, lead monoxide and four other chemical substances with food safety risks, two emerging psychoactive substances (1,4- butanediol and boldine dimethyl ether), as well as eight explosive precursors like ammonium nitrate and calcium ammonium nitrate were declared chemical substances of concern. To ensure food safety, protect public health, and maintain safety, the CA continues to assess and regulate substances in need of tightened controls.
Assessing and regulating chemical substancs to strengthen control
In the future, the CA will continue to assess and regulate chemical substances based on their hazardous characteristics, domestic operational situations, and control needs. Currently, following instructions from the Executive Yuan, the CA is assessing the possibility of announcing 2- chloroethanol, a chemical substance with food safety risks and gamma- butyrolactone, as substances of concern for control. Moreover, to align with the trends outlined in the Stockholm Convention, on 11 July 2023 perfluorohexanesulfonic acid, its salts, as well as related compounds, were preannounced to be regulated as toxic chemical substances. Control efforts on chemical substances will be further strengthened in the future.
Excerpt from Major Environmental Policies, November 2023
- Ministry of Environment