Food safety liaison windows between Taiwan and China formalized




Central News Agency
2008-10-07 05:10 PM


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The two sides of the Taiwan Strait have formally established a direct communications mechanism for food safety-related issues, the quasi-official Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) said Monday in a statement.

Under the mechanism, two major commodity inspection and food safety control agencies on each side have been designated as channels for direct communication and real-time reporting whenever any major food poisoning case is reported, the SEF statement said.

From now on, the statement said, the Bureau of Food Safety under Taiwan's Department of Health will contact the Health Supervision Bureau under China's Ministry of Health in the event of food safety issues of public concern, and vice versa.

Meanwhile, the statement went on, commodity inspection agencies on the two sides -- the Bureau of Standards, Metrology and Inspection under Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Import and Export Food Safety Bureau under China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine -- will also forge a similar direct dialogue and communications channel for food safety-related information exchanges, mutual assistance and emergency response.

The two sides reached a preliminary consensus on the establishment of a direct cross-strait communications mechanism to deal with emergency food poisoning cases during a working-level meeting in Beijing in late September.

On Monday, the SEF informed its Chinese counterpart -- the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) -- of the Taiwan government's decision to pick its food safety and commodity inspection agencies as its designated liaisons with relevant Chinese authorities.

The SEF said it received a response from the ARATS shortly afterward, saying that the Chinese government also chose its health supervision and commodity inspection agencies to serve as liaison agencies with Taiwan.

By now, the SEF statement said, all the formalities have been completed for the installation of a direct communications mechanism for food safety concerns.

The need to craft direct cross-strait dialogue channels to deal with food safety issues arose after the recent melamine scare.

Melamine, a nitrogen-rich chemical used to make plastics and fertilizers, has been widely used in China to spike watered-down milk to mask the resulting protein deficiency and fool quality tests.

Melamine contamination of baby formula has been blamed for the deaths of at least four infants and kidney illnesses in more than 53,000 children in China.

A shipment of 25 tons of milk powder imported into Taiwan from China earlier this year has also caused a stir in the local food market and led to the resignation of Lin Fang-yue as DOH minister late last month.

Through the arrangements of the SEF and the ARATS -- the two quasi-official intermediary bodies authorized to handle cross-strait exchanges in the absence of official ties -- a Taiwan delegation of health officials and experts visited Beijing Sept.27-29 to discuss the establishment of a direct communciations mechanism to deal with relevant issues.


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