Go beyond food safety tests

Updated: 2011-10-14 16:31

(China Daily)

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The Ministry of Health's answer to our need for safeguards against recycled cooking oils still leaves us concerned.

The high-profile collaborative project to find ways to distinguish recycled cooking oils, which involves the ministry, six government departments and chemical scientists from across the country is yet to produce any credible results. All the five methods they have chosen so far have failed, we are told.

This is incredible. We have formidable technical capabilities that enable us to venture into space. But our scientists can't tell whether we are cooking with oils recycled from kitchen leftovers.

Yet this is the truth we are asked to accept.

An expert with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention lamented, "counterfeiters have become considerably sophisticated technically".

So we have to believe some of our compatriots have an uncommon genius that permits them to conduct their illegal business despite the best efforts of these scientists and government departments. And we have no doubt about illegal food producers' readiness to discard any moral principles when there are profits to be made.

Given the counterfeiters' technical sophistication it will clearly require greater effort to find ways to protect us from these potentially harmful cooking oils.

And obviously we can't count on a set of national standards alone to guarantee our safety.

After all, what the Ministry of Health and the other five institutions are doing now is based on the premise that recycled cooking oils are already present, if not prevalent, in the marketplace.

We have to agree with the scientist who said "test methods are no solution to all the problems".

Our country has a complete chain of food safety guarantee mechanisms. While the Ministry of Health is at the end of it, other government institutions in the chain, from the industry and commerce administration to those in charge of quality inspection and market access, have a responsibility to ensure a safe national food chain.

Public security authorities are carrying out a nationwide crackdown on crimes threatening food safety. But this will only be a priority for a certain period of time. Their emphasis will shift as soon as another irregularity takes precedence on the political agenda.

The onus is on those designated to take care of our food supplies on a day-to-day basis. So we need to see all government institutions with responsibilities for food safety act whole-heartedly and effectively.