A Taiwan government delegation has returned from China after a three-day
trip to investigate the origin of melamine-contaminated milk powder. Despite
government claims that progress was made in guaranteeing food safety, the
tainted milk scandal has undermined public confidence in Taiwan's Department of
Health. Thibault Worth reports from Taipei.
Public anger forced Taiwan's
health minister to resign last week after he flip-flopped on the maximum amount
of melamine allowable in food. For weeks, the department has scrambled to
process requests by local manufacturers to certify the safety of their
Chinese authorities earlier this month warned that tons of
melamine-contaminated milk powder were exported to Taiwan.
The new health
minister, Yeh Ching-Chuan, says a delegation sent to China has established
direct communication with food safety regulators in Beijing. The delegation
returned from China on Monday.
Yeh says the two sides established
emergency contact points for food safety issues and will keep communication
He then downed a cup of King Car instant coffee in a
gesture of reassurance. Earlier this month, King Car learned that several of its
products were contaminated with melamine and recalled them after informing
Despite Yeh's reassurance, many Taiwanese doubt the
success of the delegation's visit. Chinese officials would not allow the
delegates to inspect any factories.
Andrew Yang is with the Chinese
Council of Advanced Policy Studies in Taipei. He says the public's anger is
focused on the Health Department, not on President Ma Ying-jeou, who is working
to further open Taiwan's market to China.
"This has very much to do with
the ability or capability to deal with contingency and crisis. It has less to do
with the leadership," Yang noted.
On Tuesday, health officials met to
discuss melamine testing procedures, as well as acceptable levels of the
substance in food. The health department promises to help Taiwanese food
companies seek compensation from the China for any tainted goods.
than 20 Chinese dairy companies were found to have adulterated milk products
with melamine, a substance normally used in making plastics. Melamine
artificially boosts protein levels, but it can cause severe health problems,
including kidney damage.
More than 50,000 children in China have been
made ill by tainted milk and at least four have died.
Many countries have
barred imports of Chinese dairy products after finding melamine in candies and