Taiwan to establish database for food

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 June, 2011, 12:00am


Taiwan's cabinet is planning to set up a cross-departmental mechanism to monitor food manufacturing in the wake of the island's worse food- safety scandal in 30 years.

Known as the Food Traceability System, the online project would require food makers to access a database set up by the government and enter all information concerning raw materials, processing and additives.

'The move is aimed at ensuring food safety in Taiwan,' cabinet minister Cyrus Chu, charged with organising the project, said at a cross- departmental meeting yesterday.

Officials say that if all goes as planned, the public should be able to start accessing information about some food products in the coming weeks. Seven major categories will be targeted first. They will consist of beverages, dairy products and flour products, as well as frozen, canned, refrigerated and pre-prepared foods.

The cabinet said the planned data system - already in use in Japan, Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and some mainland cities such as Beijing and Shanghai - was needed to restore confidence in Taiwan's food and beverage market, hit hard by the revelation that potentially cancer-causing plastic additives had been used in food.

Millions of bottles of sports drinks, juices, teas, jams and syrups, as well as packages of supplement tablets, have been recalled since May 23 after Taiwanese authorities found that several major suppliers, including the prime culprit, Yu Shen Chemical, had used industrial plasticisers instead of palm oil to produce a clouding agent that was meant to enhance the flavour and appearance of a number of products.

So far, more than 961 products from 280 companies have been found to contain the tainted additive. Pharmaceutical manufacturers and bakeries are among the latest companies unknowingly caught up in the scandal. But perhaps more alarming were local media reports that the tainted additive had been used in Taiwan for up to three decades.

In the cross-departmental meeting yesterday, officials from the Food and Drug Administration, Council of Agriculture, Industrial Development Bureau and other related bodies discussed how and when the new food-supply chain data system should be implemented.

Under the plan, manufacturers of the seven categories of foods and beverages must register information regarding processing procedures - from raw materials to finished products. And departments involved will code all the information so the public can trace what they have been eating or drinking, through the online system, the cabinet said.

The Council of Agriculture will tackle basic materials from the farming, fishery, livestock and forestry sectors, while the Industrial Development Bureau will deal with the phase of product processing and manufacturing. The Food and Drug Administration would supervise the use of additives in foods and beverages, the officials said.

They said that it would take at least two to three years for the entire system to be fully established, adding that the project was essential to rebuild public confidence, and confidence from elsewhere in the world, in food and beverage products made in Taiwan.


The value, in Taiwanese dollars, of the island's beverage market (HK$13.5 billion)

- Beverage makers have lost NT$500m