By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
The Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau (IACM) said it “has been” working on the establishment of a food safety centre and the formulation of related laws and regulations over the past three years, but gave no timeframe of when the centre would open.
In response to a call from the Macau Federation of Trade Unions (FAOM) on Thursday to set up a food safety centre as soon as possible to ensure the health of local residents, an IACM spokesman told Macau Daily Times yesterday that the bureau has “never ceased” preparation work since the centre was announced in the 2008 Policy Address.
At present there is a food safety coordination team formed by representatives from IACM, Financial Services Bureau (DSF), Consumer Council, Customs Service, Health Bureau (SSM) and Government Information Bureau.
While IACM is responsible for the safety of fresh food produce, DSF oversees packaged food and SSM conducts pharmacological tests whenever contaminated or poisoned food is found.
The spokesman said IACM has also been working on the formulation of a new food safety law or revision of the existing regulations but no further details were disclosed.
He merely added that one of the changes would be the expansion of the functions and structure of the food safety coordination team.
The plan to set up a food safety centre was announced three years ago but when asked of the timeframe to opening of the facility, the IACM spokesman said it was yet unknown.
The survey results announced by FAOM on Thursday found that over 94 percent of respondents were worried about food safety in the territory.
The IACM spokesman pointed out that fears were raised mainly because people have been hearing about “a lot of [tainted food] problems” in neighbouring regions, yet no major scandal of this kind was ever reported in Macau.
“The coordination team has been promoting food safety in the public such as how to handle and select food. Details of tainted food [being sold in Macau] are also announced immediately,” he said.
IACM’s monitoring mechanism for fresh food produce safety is “relatively comprehensive,” the spokesman stressed.
Not only will mainland Chinese authorities notify IACM when certain food is found to have been contaminated, he said, but fresh produce is imported into Macau from registered farms in mainland China. The bureau will carry out random import checks before they can be sold in outlets.
Meanwhile the FAOM survey showed that a lot of respondents deemed that penalties should be increased for producers or individuals who are held accountable for food contamination.
The IACM spokesman said a majority of food products come from outside of Macau and therefore in most cases the government can only order the suspension of sale and is incapable of punishing non-local producers.
On the other hand, IACM on Thursday urged people not to consume two types of bottled sauces made in Taiwan after they were found to have contained excessive amounts of plasticizer DBP.
They are ‘Flavour Full Black Sesame Spread’, weighing 170 grams with an expiry date of May 19, 2012 and ‘Kimlan Sweet Sauce’, weighing 200 grams to expire on May 9, 2014.
Local outlets have also been asked to recall the products.
Several Taiwanese-made raw materials and food products have already been recalled in Macau due to contamination of toxic plasticisers earlier this year.
The scandal has triggered food security fears across Taiwan and neighbouring regions including Hong Kong and Macau where Taiwanese food and drink establishments are popular.
The food scare prompted calls for the SAR Government to set up a food safety centre as soon as possible.