XIAMEN, June 16 (Xinhua) -- Officials and experts with the quality supervision authorities and institutions from the Chinese mainland and Taiwan have called for concerted efforts to ensure food safety on both sides of the Strait.
"The mainland and Taiwan should strengthen cooperation in safeguarding food safety, which is an important issue for both sides of the Strait," said Zhang Gang, chief engineer of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) , the country's quality control watchdog.
Zhang made the remarks at a quality forum that is part of the ongoing Third Straits Forum held in the southeastern coastal city of Xiamen, the largest-ever grassroots exchange event between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan.
"The two sides should jointly deal with illegal food production and face the challenges of food safety for the well-being of the people," Zhang said.
The quality forum was held in the wake of a food safety scam that swept the Taiwan island and sent shock waves to people on both sides of the Strait.
In mid May, Taiwan's health authority announced that it had found a food addictive supplier to have illegally added toxic plasticizer DEHP in its products to substitute for more expensive palm oil to cut costs.
DEHP, or Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, is usually used to soften plastic products and repeated exposure to it could lead to testicular defects or fertility problems. Children are especially prone to the harmful effects of DEHP.
The DEHP-contaminated additives are believed to have been sold to hundreds of food and beverage producers in Taiwan.
The mainland has since ordered a ban on imports of nearly 1,000 Taiwan-made food and beverage products. Products suspected of being contaminated with DEHP were recalled or withdrawn from shelves.
Dadeng Market in Xiamen is a franchised Taiwan products trade center.
After the food safety scandal, the quality control authorities in Xiamen suspended trading of five categories of Taiwan food and beverage in the market for further inspection.
"For the first time since I started the business of food trading a decade ago, I realized that this sector is really fragile as a reputation crisis might lead to the bankruptcy of a company," said Wu Chao, general manager of Xiamen-based Gaoyi Trade Company, which is the general agent to Taiwan A-Sali branded food products.
The Chinese mainland is not immune to food safety problems, either.
Melamine-contaminated milk powder by a Hebei-based dairy maker killed at least six children and sickened about 300,000 others in 2008, and sporadic food safety scandals have been a public concern.
While addressing the cross-Strait forum, vice chairman of Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party Tseng Yung-chuan said the DEHP scandal had triggered the alarm on food safety, and Taiwan authorities would strike hard on unscrupulous food producers.
Wang Yi, director of the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, told the forum that the mainland and Taiwan are fortifying coordination and cooperation in the field of food safety so as to crack down on illegal food production.
In November 2008, the mainland and Taiwan signed an agreement on cross-Strait food safety cooperation, under which the two sides agreed to share information and build up a coordination mechanism on food safety issues.
Tian Shihong, director of the quality control department of AQSIQ, proposed at the forum that the mainland should work on a credit mechanism that would include a blacklist to expose and punish those wrongdoers.