Several food safety incidents over the past years caught the public’s attention. With the government’s subsequent legislative and precautionary measures, which were listing chemical substances with food-safety risks under control and tightening enterprises’ voluntary management on chemical substances, incidents in which chemical substances with food-safety risks systematically enter the food chain have not occurred in recent years. What’s more, the EPA is joined by other agencies to keep an eye on chemicals substances at the source of food production as well as the environments where food is planted and grown.
Humans cannot live without food, so food safety is of upmost importance. To properly ensure food safety from the source, the EPA’s Toxic and Chemical Substances Bureau (TSCB) has been collaborating with the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) and the Council of Agriculture (COA) since its establishment in December 2016. The approach is to achieve food safety by tracking the flow of chemical substances that may affect food safety and implement at-source controls on them.
Since 2016, the EPA has actively evaluated the 57 chemical substances with potential risks to food safety, screened out by the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) and other agencies, to intensify controls so as to enhance responsibilities of enterprises handling these substances and prevent them from systematically entering into the food production chain. In 2017 and 2018, 20 types (with a total of 27 chemical substances) have been listed as Class 4 toxic chemical substances, including rhodamine B, an additive found in glutinous rice balls, and Sudan Red G, another one found in salted egg yolks. Then five chemical substances with potential food-safety risks, which are lead monoxide, lead (II, IV) oxide, sodium sulfide, sodium thiocyanate, and β-naphtholrongalite, were listed as concerned chemical substances on 12 January 2023. Now handlers of these five substances are mandated to obtain approval for use, label, document relevant activities online, and file monthly registration, while banned from trading them online and operating without licenses. Activities like manufacture, import, sale, use and storage are all subject to controls with the aim to ensure proper at-source management and prevent abuses in the supply chains of food products.
Moreover, every year the EPA has been continuously conducting over 3,000 visits to enterprises manufacturing or selling chemical substances between 2017 and 2022, assisting them in their voluntary management and working with them as partners to stop industrial-use chemical substances from being used in food production or processing. There are collaborations with other ministries and agencies to conduct joint inspections during traditional holidays. In 2019, the sanitation authorities found two food stalls using rangalite and rhodamine B that they had kept before these substances were listed as toxic substances. But otherwise no incidents of chemical substances being used in the food production process was found regarding enterprises on the EPA’s control list.
In collaboration across different government agencies, deputy ministers of the EPA, the COA, and the MOEA regularly convene and preside over quarterly meetings on environmental protection and food safety, addressing the latest relevant information and keeping monitoring high-risk regions. Should risks of contamination be detected within the food production process, a response mechanism will be immediately activated to conduct joint monitoring, take samples to trace contamination sources, or carry out emergency response measures. The agencies work together and make sure that all steps in the food production process are closely connected and kept under close watch so as to ensure food safety and protect public health.
Excerpt from Major Environmental Policies, January 2023
- Ministry of Environment