2017 EU-Taiwan Food Safety Seminar
2017 臺歐食品安全研討會
Taipei, 21 June

Note: This is an abridged version. To read the full report, please clicHERE.


The European Economic and Trade Office (EETO), under the framework of the European Business and Regulatory Cooperation (EBRC) programme, co-hosted the “2017 EU-Taiwan Food Safety Seminar” in conjunction with the European Union Centre in Taiwan (EUTW), National Applied Research Laboratories (NARL), the Food Safety Center, National Taiwan University, and the EU Centre of Excellence, National Taiwan University. The half-day event gathered 140 participants from Europe and Taiwan, which included regulators, representatives of central and local governments and business to discuss in depth food traceability systems and how the EU has adopted systematic tracking methods to effectively support EU Member States in addressing food safety issues, such as the control and management of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). The event began with opening remarks by the guests of honour. This was followed by two sessions featuring presentations by speakers from the EU and Taiwan. Each session was followed by a Q&A session while the event was concluded with a panel discussion, featuring all of the speakers.

Organisers

European Union Centre in Taiwan (EUTW)
European Economic and Trade Office (EETO)
National Applied Research Laboratories 國家實驗研究院
European Business and Regulatory Cooperation (EBRC)
Food Safety Center, National Taiwan University 國立臺灣大學食品安全中心
EU Centre of Excellence, National Taiwan University 國立臺灣大學歐盟卓越中心

Guests of honour

Ms Viktoria LÖVENBERG, Deputy Head of Office, EETO 歐洲經貿辦事處 婁薇琦副處長
Dr SU Hung-dah, Director-General, European Union Centre in Taiwan 臺灣歐盟中心主任 蘇宏達博士

Speakers

Mr Stéphane ANDRE, Policy Officer, Directorate General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE), European Commission
Mr Wolf-Martin MAIER, Policy Officer, Directorate General for Trade (DG TRADE), European Commission
Dr CHENG Wei-Chih, Senior Technical Specialist, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) 衛生福利部食品藥物管理局簡任技正 鄭維智博士
Dr Lucy SUN HWANG, Professor Emeritus, Graduate Institute of Food Science and Technology, National Taiwan University臺灣大學食品科技研究所名譽教授 孫璐西


Opening remarks

In her remarks Ms Lövenberg said that ensuring a high level of protection of human health and animal welfare in relation to food is a key objective of global food trade. Taiwan and the EU are both members of the World Trade Organisation and the WTO’s SPS Agreement is the common global trade framework that sets out clearly the principles for food-related legislation: the requirement of science-based rules that have minimum negative trade effects, adherence to the principles of regionalisation and international standards and transparency of rules and procedures. Ms Lövenberg stressed that in the EU, food safety is indispensable for the functioning of the internal market which provides access to over 500 million consumers in 28 countries, allows no compromise of safety and requires a high level of protection and solid controls at all levels of the food chain, from the farm to the fork. Rules are the same for both local producers and importers and for products destined for local consumption and export.

She went on to remark that there is already significant bilateral trade in food products between the EU and Taiwan, both in terms of trade value and the variety of products and that, in recent years, there has been rising interest from Taiwanese consumers in European food products, which is clearly an area with strong growth potential. She remarked that consumers in both the EU and Taiwan had similar expectations. Both want a high level of safety and a wide variety of products, without compromising safety.

In his remarks Dr Su explained that the European Union Centre in Taiwan was set up in 2009 as a cooperative platform between the EU and seven universities in Taiwan. Its mission is three-fold: 1) Promoting understanding of the EU and its policies in Taiwan; 2) Promoting the study and deepening research of EU-related topics in Taiwan and 3) Promoting exchange and cooperation between academics on both sides in conducing EU and Asian studies.

Previous environment and science forums have been arranged on subjects such as green energy but this time it was decided to cooperate with the EBRC on food safety. One of the objectives of the seminar is to try to align European and Taiwanese standards. He went on to give some examples of previous and forthcoming national forums designed to discuss the latest developments in the EU. A recent forum on culture came in the form of a European film festival two weeks ago. A forthcoming forum will discuss recent developments in France and the United Kingdom. Another forum will gather scientists and business people to brainstorm on future cooperation and exchanges.

He made the point that a large proportion of academics from Taiwan study and graduate from universities in the United States and therefore there is a tendency for them to choose to cooperate with US universities. He expressed the intention to encourage and promote more cooperation between European and Taiwanese universities in future.

 

Session 1

Topic: Measures to prevent, control and eradicate BSE in the EU

Speaker: Mr Stéphane ANDRE, Policy Officer, Directorate General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE), European Commission

The EU’s strategy to address the spread of the Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSE) family of diseases, which includes Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle, was to introduce protective measures to address the commonly accepted cause of TSE diseases, a transmissible agent called a prion (PrPres), which is an abnormal form of a protein.

Since processed animal protein (PAP) in feed for farmed animals produced from infected ruminants is assumed to be the transmission route of BSE, the EU has implemented a feed ban as the basic preventive measure against BSE. The feed ban prevents the BSE a prion from being recycled in the feed chain.

Since May 1998, EU-wide measures on surveillance and eradication have been in place. Results showed an immediately positive impact of the food ban and surveillance measures. The number of cases peaked in 1995 at about 1,900 and began to fall in subsequent years. The number of cases fell even more sharply since the total feed ban was introduced in 2001 and has since dropped to close to zero.

The 2001 ban suspended the use of PAP in feed for farmed animals kept, fattened or bred for the production of food in order to prevent cross-contamination between feed containing PAP intended for species other than ruminants and feed intended for ruminants. The EU’s feed ban goes further than the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), which only bans ruminant to ruminant feed. The EU has also banned the use of PAP in feed for farmed animals.

Another equally important preventive measure is the removal of Specified Risk Material (SRM) from cattle, sheep and goats so that it does not enter the food and feed chain. SRM are the tissues where BSE infection is most likely to occur, which could pose a risk to human health if consumed. SRM must be removed from the food and feed chains to avoid the risk of transmission and recycling of the BSE agent.  This has been done October since 2000. The list of SRM to be removed from bovine animals depends on the BSE risk status of the country of origin.

In terms of SRM measures, once again, the EU goes further than the OIE. The OIE’s SRM list includes: tonsils and distal ileum for bovine animals of all ages, brain, eyes, skull, spinal cord and vertebral column of bovine animals over 30 months (for countries with controlled BSE risk) or for animals over 12 months (for countries with undetermined BSE risk). In the EU, in addition to the OIE’s list, for countries with controlled BSE risk, the last 4 meters of the small intestine + ceacum + mesentery in addition to the distal ileum are removed and, for 12 month-old animals, the brain, skull, eyes and spinal cord are removed.

While the OIE does not impose conditions on countries with negligible risk, the EU still has a reduced list of SRM applied to Member States with negligible BSE risk to guard against atypical risk, since BSE is spontaneous and may have a zoonotic potential. Even in countries with negligible risk, the skull, brain, eyes and spinal cord of bovine animals over 12 months are removed.

Surveillance and eradication is linked to the traceability system. The EU has a complete traceability system that covers everything about bovine animals. This starts with double ear tags for each animal (in case one is lost), an individual number, registration at the holding level, bovine passports, a computerised database at the national level, which serves as the basis for a reliable BSE surveillance and eradication system. The movement of animals is traced and everything is registered and uploaded to a central database. This means that for every package of meat sold by supermarkets, it is easy to retrieve information on it.

Additional measures to protect public health include the removal of infected animals from the food chain and eradication measures (culling) to remove contaminated animals.

The EU employs both passive and active surveillance. Passive surveillance is the examination of all animals suspected of being infected by a TSE. Active surveillance takes the form of systematic monitoring using rapid tests of animals at risk as well as healthy animals.

In the years since the implementation of the total feed ban, a huge number of tests have been conducted. At the peak in 2003 over 10 million tests were conducted but in subsequent years, as the number of cases steadily declined, the number of tests has been reduced accordingly.

In 2016 just two cases of BSE were reported, one in Spain and one in France, although the French case only occurred because one operator did not clean his equipment properly.

In order to prevent future cases, farmers and vets are required to report suspected cases to authorities, which then conduct epidemiological investigations. If BSE is detected or even if BSE cannot be ruled out, eradication measures are taken. The epidemiological investigation covers feed history, birth history, progeny history and cohort history.

Eradication measures include cohort cull and progeny cull with a possible extension to related holdings.

All culled animals are subject to BSE testing.

The BSE status of Member States or third countries or regions thereof is to be determined by classification into one of three categories (or statuses) depending on the BSE risk involved: 1) Undetermined risk status; 2) Controlled BSE risk status and 3) Negligible risk status. This classification has been based on that of the OIE since July 2007, and is laid down in Commission Decision 2007/453/EC, which is regularly amended.

24 EU Member States have been granted negligible BSE risk status while 4 are under controlled risk status, which is the same status as Canada, South Korea and Taiwan.

Mr Andre concluded that the EU’s comprehensive tracing, monitoring and control system have succeeded in virtually eradicating BSE in the EU, which has resulted in high consumer confidence in food safety. He added that Ractopamine and other growth hormones are banned as is the use of growth-promoting antibiotics. 


Topic: The single market and global trade: The European Commission’s oversight to guarantee

sanitary and phytosanitary conditions

Speaker: Mr Wolf-Martin MAIER, Policy Officer, Directorate General for Trade (DG TRADE), European Commission

70% of trade in food products is within the EU, meaning that the EU is its own most important trading partner. The success of the single market is not built on friendship. Rather, it is built on constant scrutiny and peer review with clear accountability; intensive, constant consultations at all levels; political consensus on the need for a high level of protection for humans, animals, plants and environment. The Commission has been entrusted with strong enforcement power by Member States. Full transparency is a key element to success.

The General Food Law (Regulation 178/2002) covers all major aspects of food safety. Article 17 covers liability: All operators must ensure the safety of food and feed. Article 18 covers traceability: All food, feed and animals have to be traceable (one step up and one step down). Article 11 covers imports: Food and feed imported into the EU must comply with the food law or conditions recognised as equivalent. Article 12 covers exports: Food and feed exported must comply with the food law.

Consumer interests come first and there is no compromise. Hormones, growth antibiotics or other growth promoters are prohibited. This applies not only to products within the EU but exports must fully comply with the same rules.

There are three layers of controls that apply to all food businesses: Hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP)-based self-controls, official controls and Commission audits.

All stages of all food production, including primary production, processing, distribution, packaging, transport and the cold-chain are subject to HACCP controls. This includes documented hygiene and sanitation plans, track and trace, recall procedures, notification of authorities and inspections. For food of animal origin, operators need authorization, which is only granted after inspections.

In terms of official controls, all Member State authorities are required to have domestic controls and import inspections, adequate staff, resources and training, accredited laboratories that meet international testing standards, multi-annual control plans in all sectors, which are reviewed by the Commission and Member States. Member State authorities are required to produce annual reports on BSE, Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) surveillance, residue monitoring and food borne illnesses.

The Commission conducts around 50 audits of third countries and around 150 in Member States anually. All reports are published on its website. Profiles of control systems are also published, including profiles and systems and results of inspections.

All Member States and EU-approved border inspection posts (BIPs) are connected to a rapid alert information system which links markets and border controls. Weekly reports are published. If something is detected, it is put on the rapid alert system for all to check and take action (removing all affected items from shelves). Retailers and importers tend to take rapid unilateral action without being forced to by authorities in order to protect their reputations and maintain the confidence of their customers. Given the fact that private sector players tend to take speedy action, this makes the Commission’s job easier.

Notifications are sent via the Commission’s Animal Disease Notification System (ADNS) and EUROPHYT, a web-based network and database that connects DG SANTE with plant health authorities of EU Member States, Switzerland and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). This allows 24-hour information exchange on animal diseases and plant pests. Weekly reports are made, which are publicly available.

The EFSA is an independent body, not part of the Commission, that provides scientific advice and risk assessments. Independence is necessary to avoid conflicts of interests. EFSA has eight scientific panels for risk assessments to identify emerging risks. It operates transparently with public participation. Its opinions are published. Transparency also serves to create peer pressure to take action.

In addition to transparency, the EU system also provides assistance. The Better Training for Safer Food (BTSF) is a Commission-led training initiative covering food and feed law, animal health and welfare and plant health rules. It disseminates best practices. In addition, officials from all levels of the Commission and Member States have frequent meetings with their counterparts, which creates opportunities for formal and informal information exchanges. EU Member States have the same interests as other trading partners to ensure that the rules are respected. The network works so well that Member States tend to answer questions without being legally forced to while, through the frequent exchange of information and best practices, the system improves itself. However, the Commission has the power to enforce the law if necessary. If Member States do not comply, the Commission can bring cases to the European Court. The EU has its own, independent auditing body and the Commission has the legal power to enforce compliance in Member States.

The EU is one of the biggest importers and exporters of agricultural products. Reliable trade relations are important to establish stable, sustainable supply and value chains and encourage investment. The Commission contributes an additional layer of controls and guarantees that no other trading partner can offer. EU beef already has market access in many countries while the EU is also a large importer of beef. (The EU exports 211,000 tonnes and imports 204,000 tonnes of beef annually).

According to the principles of the multilateral system, SPS measures must be based on international standards and/or supported by scientific risk assessments, transparent, proportionate, non-discriminatory and be no more trade restrictive than necessary, meaning that trading partners should be treated the same as EU Member States.

The most problematic issues encountered in the expansion of EU exports of food and drink products are long approval procedures, inflexible and unnecessarily prescriptive rules, for example on animal and plant health, hygiene standards and contaminants. An increasingly problematic area is Halal food. Although the concepts of regionalisation and equivalence are agreed in principle, in practice they are difficult to implement. For example, there are different ways to test for Salmonella while standards for Listeria are different. However, the speaker stressed the point that what is more important than the measure is the result. Having a zero tolerance policy does not mean there is zero risk since problem cases may slip through. What is much more important is that the measure is reliably enforced.

 

First Q&A session

Moderator: Dr SU Hung-dah Director-General, European Union Centre in Taiwan 臺灣歐盟中心主任 蘇宏達博士

In a question about follow-up action following a BSE case, panellists made the point that it is not possible to totally eradicate BSE because there is always the chance of atypical cases.

A member of the audience asked why Taiwan is still listed as have an under control risk status even though no cases of BSE have occurred for many years. An answer was not provided.

Panellists noted that although BSE has not been detected in 24 Member States that are categorized as negligible risk, measures are still in place to try to prevent cases in future.

Mr Andre made the point that DG SANTE was created because of BSE and to avoid a conflict of interest with the Directorate General of Agriculture and Rural Development (DG AGRI).

In answer to a question from the audience on animal welfare practices, panellists answered that measures are in place to reduce stress on animals, particularly during transit. Provisions to this effect are addressed in legislation and have also been added to trade agreements. For example, an EU ban on conventional battery cages for laying hens entered into force in 2012. There are also specific rules that restrict the time it takes to transport animals in addition to clear rules on animal health conditions and tracing. These rules are enforced by law enforcement officers. In addition, transport can only happen between farms with the same disease status.

Taiwan’s exporters of fish to the EU are linked to the same system, which means that if any problem arises, it can be controlled.  

On a question of the impact of the UK’s decision to leave the EU, panellists did not comment on the Brexit process, except to say that they are 100% sure that it will not compromise food safety or health in the single market and that the UK’s systems and control measures will remain fully harmonized and enforced until Brexit.

  

Session 2

Topic: Food safety traceability management in Taiwan: Case study and practice

Speaker: Dr CHENG Wei-Chih, Senior Technical Specialist, Food and Drug Administration, Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) 衛生福利部食品藥物管理局簡任技正 鄭維智博士

Taiwan has experienced a lot of food safety incidents over the last 10 years. These included:

Regulation violations, such as exceeding pesticide and animal drug residue levels beyond the allowable limit. Violations of this type are not necessarily intentional but may occur by accident or if food business operators don’t understand the regulations.

Improper processing: Taiwan had a high profile scandal in 2010 where vacuum-packaged dried bean curd (tofu) contained a toxin that caused botulism that killed one and injured 81 others. This case demonstrated the importance of paying attention not just to chemicals but also biological toxins.

Adding illegal chemical substances, including plasticisers and maleic anhydride starch. Taiwan has rules on additives and allowable amounts for those not banned.

Fraud such as adding artificial flavours and mixing oil with copper chlorophyll. For example, a bakery that claimed to sell all natural products but was later found to be using additives, eventually went out of business.

Use of inferior or expired ingredients: Examples have included adding waste products to the food chain or products that have passed their expiry dates. Dr Cheng joked that it is strange that Taiwanese consumers a quite happy to eat food from night markets that may contain biological hazards and cause diarrhoea but they are obsessed by chemical substances. This shows lack of knowledge and need to raise awareness.

Taiwan introduced the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation in 2013. Before 2008, there was no reference to traceability in legislation, just good manufacturing practices (GHP), good sanitation and the requirement for certain businesses to use HACCP. The new legislation requires traceability.

Dr Cheng expressed the view that the idea from farm to fork (or table) would be best replaced with “from supplier consumer” in order to focus on the supplier’s system, personnel, information management and practices, which are sometimes problematic. He cited an example of restaurant, which had a promotion to give away chopsticks, which were later found to be made of lead.

In 2012 Taiwan started to require food business to be registered. Each business is given a unique registration number and required to upload their data. So far 440,000 businesses have registered and their information is available online.

Every business has to follow GHP and have related data or records for tracing their sources. Finished products require related documents or records. According to Taiwan’s Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation, food services operators shall establish their own traceability systems, use electronic uniform invoices, use electronic methods to declare information and have related data or records for tracing their sources.

There are five elements of traceability: product name, identification, material supplier information, product flow information and other information or records for internal traceability system management. Suppliers have to disclose where raw materials come from and how they are disposed of.

Dr Cheng cited a successful case example of a company which had added illegal additives to food in 2015. Thanks to the system in place, within one day authorities were able to trace all information across the food chain and within two days, by tracing upstream, data analysis and an onsite inspection it was found where the ingredients were used and not used and to recall the affected products. 


Topic: Food safety issues and challenges in Taiwan

Speaker: Dr Lucy Sun Hwang, Professor Emeritus, Graduate Institute of Food Science and Technology, National Taiwan University 臺灣大學食品科技研究所名譽教授 孫璐西

Dr Sun began by describing the most serious food safety incidents in Taiwan since 2008 when there was a case of melamine in formula from mainland China. In 2009, there was a claim that arsenic was used in cooking oil used by McDonalds, a claim that was later proved to be false. The case of Botulism in dried bean curd (tofu) in 2010 occurred because infected tofu had been vacuum packaged, which provided a perfect environment for the virus to grow. The tofu was made in a family factory, which showed the need for better education of small food business operators on the correct hygiene controls.

Plasticisers were found in food products in 2011 and Ractopamine in US beef in 2012. Since then there was a case of Maleic acid in starch in 2013, which also was the year of a case of olive oil adulteration. This was not a food safety issue but a fraudulent scheme, which is far more hated by consumers. In this case oil was adulterated by adding copper chlorophyll to oil to make it green (to resemble extra virgin olive oil). Copper chlorophyll, contrary to exaggerated claims, is not toxic or harmful to fertility.

In 2014 the biggest scandal came to light of recycled waste or “gutter” oil and imported animal feed oil, which was found to have been used as a raw material for lard, claimed to be imported. Lard is used a lot in Taiwanese cuisine and desserts. The case is now in the second phase.

In 2015 residues of the pesticide DDT was found in imported floral teas. This prompted the creation of a traceability system to find out where the tea came from.

There was a case of expired ingredients used in vinegar in 2015 but since vinegar is preserved product, Dr Sun questioned whether this was really necessary. She suggested that there should be a distinction between something that is harmful to health and something that is safe but just not as optimal or tasty as it was before its expiry date.

In the 2011 case, phthalate-based plasticizers were used in a clouding agent, which ended up in products including tea drinks, jam, sports drinks, tablets and capsules of probiotic powder for children. Tax records were used in the case to track the perpetrators.

In 2013 Maleic anhydride was illegally added to food products in order to enhance the chewy texture of food, to prevent it from becoming mushy during cooking, to aid in preservation, and to reduce production costs. Although Maleic anhydride is not toxic, it was much cheaper than the best natural alternative, which is sweet potato starch.

The government learned lot of lessons from the scandals. Food safety regulations were revised and there was a reorganization of government agencies to deal better with food safety issues. A Committee of Food Safety was set up which reports directly to the Executive Yuan (EY, headed by the premier), giving it much higher status (equivalent to a government ministry). There is also an Office of Food Safety and a Department of Consumer Protection, each of which also falls directly under the EY.

In terms of legislation the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation was revised in 2015 with much stricter provisions, especially Chapter II on Risk Management for Food Safety (one of 10 chapters under the act).

The most important changes aimed at enhancing food safety include emphasizing source control, re-building production control, enhancing inspection and testing, increasing liabilities and responsibility for food operators and greater supervision of everyone. This includes greater protection for whistle-blowers.

The TFDA has set up a risk monitoring centre, which looks at big data for unusual increases in unusual ingredients and food additives. In addition, authorities publish the frequency of inspections and conduct regular selective batch inspections.

Since Taiwan imports around 70% of its food, it is not possible to inspect all imports so inspections are done on a risk basis. The most high risk products, such as imported crabs are tested on a batch by batch basis. There are regulations governing the inspection of imported foods and related products, regulations for systematic inspection of imported food. The MOHW announces the product items required to be inspected at the border. In terms of enforcement the TFDA conducts inspections at ports of entry.

There is a comprehensive set of rules for the labelling of products and penalties for mislabelling products as well as for false promotion or advertising, such as making claims that food products have medical efficacy.

Every business has to have control procedures in place. There are three levels in the quality control system: self-management; third party commission and on-site examination, sampling and testing conducted by the competent authority. In terms of self-management, food businesses are required to comply with regulations on Good Hygiene Practice for Food (GHP), Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP), Food Traceability System, have sanitation control personnel and professionals with vocational or technical certification.

Taiwan’s online food business registration system (Fadenbook) covers all food manufactures, processors, caterers importers and retailers (440,000 businesses). The government’s “food cloud” collects data from different government agencies.

The speaker concluded with the following suggestions to improve food safety in Taiwan.

1. Harmonize Taiwan’s food regulations with international regulations, such as CODEX and the EU regulations, although food intake differences should be considered when conducting risk assessments (because dietary habits in Taiwan are different and have to be taken into account in regulations).

2. Strengthen risk communication with consumers by using more effective channels, such as Facebook, Line and others. However, experts should be used to disseminate knowledge rather than celebrities, who may lack knowledge about food safety.

3. Include agriculture, food and food safety knowledge in textbooks as part of compulsory education curriculums.

4. The TFDA should supervise and support local government agencies to conduct more frequent inspections of food manufacturers.

5. Educate small food businesses, especially traditional food manufacturers, to control their raw materials, processing hygiene and storage/packaging.

 

Second Q&A session

EU speakers noted that during the crisis on plasticers, while other countries closed their markets to Taiwan, the EU did not.

On a question related to cooperation between national and local government authorities, speakers pointed out that if inspections are only done by local governments, this is a problem. There needs to be coordinated action, such as in the EU with three levels of control. Dr Sun countered that central and local authorities in Taiwan are indeed working together.

On a question as to the frequency of monitoring of meat processing facilities, EU speakers said that inspections are conducted on a daily basis of meat processing plants and less frequently for other plants, depending on risk. A speaker added that inspections are not the only solution to ensuring food safety. There are many control measures involving specialists.

 

Final panel discussion

Moderator: Dr CHEN Ming-Ju, Professor, Department of Animal Science and Technology, NTU

主持人: 臺大動物科學技術系教授 陳明汝

Ms Lövenberg gave some examples of cooperation and dialogue between the EU and Taiwan. Officials from DG SANTE have visited Taiwan to give presentations and conducted training programmes for officials and auditors in Europe. She stressed that there is no need for Taiwan to “reinvent the wheel” when it would be much easier to adopt the best practices from Europe and thereby avoid food safety scandals and problems.

On a questions about the lack of public trust in authorities about the risk of BSE and how best to communicate with consumers to convince them, European speakers made the point that trust can only be earned through transparency and that it takes time to build trust. It is not possible to inspect every single product, which is why it is important to have a robust food safety and control system in place and effective global information exchange because the food chain is global.

A speaker referred to a survey of around 1000 Taiwanese consumers, which indicated that local consumers have a high degree of confidence in the safety of EU food products. According to the survey, 42% of Taiwanese know there are no hormone and growth promoters in EU beef, indicating that there is already a fair degree of awareness of the issue.

A speaker made the point that risk communication starts with science but that risk is not equivalent to hazard; it only points to the possibility of a hazard. The government should try harder to be more transparent and also engage in a more open dialogue with consumers as well as other stakeholders, including private food operators and NGOs.

On a question as to how to make improvements in food safety, a statistic was quoted that food business operators have much better capacity to ensure that their products are safe. In the EU, authorities cannot test more than 5% of products (a percentage of 7% was mentioned for Taiwan). However, if all countries pooled their information, this would greatly increase the percentage and thereby make food safer globally.

A speaker stressed the need for whistle-blowers but also to encourage food businesses to adopt good practices for their own good.