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Egg on their face

Aug 21,2017
The government found pesticide residues from eggs in 49 out of 1,239 chicken farms across the nation. Egg shipping was normalized from 1,190 farms that passed the latest inspection. Since 95.7 percent of total egg supplies have been cleared for distribution, the market disruption from the short supply won’t likely be huge.

Yet consumers remain anxious. Retailers were ordered to recall eggs from the farms that overused pesticides. But how they can be fully recalled is questionable as there is no tracking system. Where the hens from the problem farms ended up also is doubtful. The government must be clear on the procedure of tracking down the problem eggs and processed food.

The government vowed to toughen guidelines on suppliers and distributors, require labeling of egg laying dates and farm environment standards, establish a tracking system on egg supplies, expand environmentally friendly farms, and improve the eco-friendly certification system as measures to ensure better safety of eggs.

If they are all administered, consumers won’t have to worry too much about the eggs they eat. The scandal underscored many problems in food administration.

It first of all raised doubts about the government’s capabilities in food control. Pesticide-tainted eggs had been pointed out in a parliamentary questioning of government agencies last year and a debate sponsored by a consumer group in April this year. If a similar scandal did not break out in Europe, we would have gone on consuming pesticide-tainted eggs. The new administration must make sure such flops do not recur.

Part of the incompetence stemmed from the overlap or separation in food administration. The Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs is in charge of overseeing fresh food manufacturing, and the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety is responsible for its distribution.

Minister of Food and Drug Safety Ryu Young-jin came under fire for lacking knowledge of the ongoing affair. Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon snapped at him to keep his mouth shut if he cannot answer reporters’ questions correctly. Opposition parties are demanding the politician-turned-minister with little knowledge and experience in food administration to resign.

The scandal was further proof that Korea still has a long way to go to ensure food safety. Consumers remain fretful even with a scientific explanation that tainted eggs do not cause harm unless they are consumed in hundreds. There cannot be complacency in food safety.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 19, Page 30