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Government communication on Japanese food is a failure: Luis Ko

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Government communication on Japanese food is a failure: Luis Ko

(Taiwan News photo)

The issue of allowing the import of food products from parts of Japan affected by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster has triggered a spate of conflicts and quarrels in Taiwan. Apart from opposition parties and social groups including physicians, even Democratic Progressive Party city mayors and county magistrates have been sending out mixed signals. The uproar has even made the model student in the matter of food safety, I-Mei Foods Co. CEO Luis Ko, shake his head. On November 19, he wrote on his Facebook page that the government should plan first and move later, and not create needless public dissatisfaction and unease.

Because several countries recently gradually lifted import restrictions on products from the disaster-stricken areas, Taiwan could soon follow suit and allow the import of some products from Fukushima prefecture and from four other prefectures (Gunma, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Chiba). The government organized public hearings on the matter which were criticized as haphazard. Earlier this week, 15 county and city chiefs from ruling and opposition parties voiced their opposition and said they did not agree with the import of the food. However, after the Presidential Office and the Executive Yuan contacted the 13 DPP mayors and magistrates, they altered their stance and said they agreed with the central government, saying that what they opposed was food imported from Fukushima prefecture.

On November 19, I-Mei Foods CEO Luis Ko wrote on his Facebook page that he felt surprise and concern at the government’s current handling of its food safety policy. He wondered why the government departments and officials in charge of agricultural produce and foodstuffs were the ones to stand at the forefront of the discussions with the public, and why the officials at the Ministry of Health and Welfare and at the Food and Drug Administration, who have usually made brave statements about food safety issues, only played a “supporting role.” He said the government had failed in its internal communication and integration. “Major problems have arisen with the functioning of the government team!”

Luis Ko also says the fact that the new government has failed to successfully execute several policies over the past six months as a result of insufficient internal “communication and integration” and of being unable to “plan first and move later.” He concluded by calling on the president and the premier to bear in mind the profound hopes of the people and to show the ability to reflect.