After a meeting with his national security aides, President Ma Ying-jeou issued a directive Monday for the establishment of a food safety office under the Executive Yuan, to address the unfolding food safety scandal. This is a good step, but the food safety crisis has provided three lessons:
Firstly, small problems, even if they have nothing to do with the country's economy, defense, diplomatic policy or ties with China, could trigger public outrage against the government and develop into an issue of national security.
The scandal surrounding the Ting Hsin group would not have become a national security issue if the president had dealt with it earlier in a national security meeting, rather than six days after the news broke.
Secondly, any serious national crisis should be handled by the entire government rather than the related agencies only.
For example, the Ministry of Health and Welfare should not be solely responsible for dealing with the issue of adulterated cooking oil; it should be working with other ministries to cope with the problem.
Thirdly, public anger over the scandal offers a chance for the government to deal comprehensively with the deep-rooted problems of food safety.
In the current environment of public dissatisfaction with the loopholes in relevant law, the government can push for a totally new system to tighten food safety, from production to sales.
We believe the people would like to see the government tackle the problem by establishing new well-conceived regulations, rather than tinkering with the existing broken system in an effort to calm public anger. (Editorial abstract --- Oct. 15, 2014)
(By Maubo Chang)