A draft bill was approved by a house committee recently after it reviewed plans to set up the body under the Environmental Protection Administration.
EPA minister Lee Ying-yuan said the new agency—tipped to be named the Bureau of Toxicology and Chemical Substance Management—will begin operations by the end of next year if the bill clears parliament.
“Taiwan has had several food scandals in recent years. Companies used illegal additives in food processing which caused much public anxiety about food safety, as well as harm to public health,” Lee said in the committee meeting.
“The food scandals have severely damaged our reputation for international trade. In many instances, exports were sent back, leading to great financial losses.“
Exports were returned to 22 countries in one food-safety case, he said, adding: “We believe it is time to set up this agency to ensure better management and control of our food safety standards.”
It would serve to free Taiwan from food scandals such as those involving companies using malachite green, a known carcinogen, to preserve fish and shrimp, or street vendors adding industrial-grade magnesium carbonate powder to spices for fried chicken.
The agency will expand its database from 310 to about 3,000 substances used as food additives. The software would also control chemical movements and record their flow from producers and suppliers via the Cloud.
“It is important to trace controlled chemicals from their source and follow their journey from suppliers,” Lee said, adding that the agency’s initial annual budget would be NT$600m (US$18.81m), and it would employ 80 staff.
Regulations governing chemicals and toxic substances currently cover 17 laws and are divided between 11 government agencies, leading to a need to consolidate such mechanisms into one body for inter-department collaboration, Lee added.