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The Amulet in Food Safety Crises: on the Institution of Commissioned Food Testing in Taiwan
Food Safety,Commissioned Food Testing,Institutional Analysis,Stake-Holder,In-Depth Interview,Focus Group Interview,
|Publication Year :||2017|
Food is the basic requirement of human life. As the process of food production and the supply chain become increasingly complex and the food safety problems cluster, people in Taiwan find themselves facing severe challenges.
People rely on the commissioned food safety test as a standard for judging whether the food is safe or not. Such sentence as “This product has passed a test and is qualified.” can be seen everywhere, and food testing is also a ubiquitous issue in food policy making. However, passing tests does not denote food safety. Food testing is an emerging industry rising out of the food safety crises in Taiwan. There are still dozens of hidden immatures with commissioned food testing in Taiwan.
Social life is based on the institutions of the society that people live in. Different society members face various conditions and choices, calculate and make decisions inside the institution, thus creating results. The planning and making of public policy are embedded in the time and space of a specific society, and they also involve the establishment and adjustment of institutional framework and coordination among stake-holders within a society.
Therefore, this study explores the institution of commissioned testing in Taiwan, as well as the attitudes and positions of different stake-holders, so as to find possible solutions to systemic problems.
From July 2015 to December 2016, the author conducted in-depth interview with a total of 18 managers of testing laboratories, food sellers, and related government officials. Six focus group interviews were arranged with a total of 57 participants. Besides, the author organizes the collected information and compares it with previous literature. Through cross-comparison and analysis, this study analyzes the considerations and actions of different society members facing the existing institution, and then depicts and reveals the genuine appearance of the institution of commissioned testing in Taiwan.
The result shows that the discrepancy caused by information asymmetry among stake-holders and the incorrect interpretations of commissioned test results by different society members reinforce the incentives for opportunistic action and render the testing a mere formality. This in turn makes commissioned food testing an unreliable signal of food safety. This unreliable signal aggravates public panic and loss of confidence in Taiwan society when people encounter food safety issues. As a result, consumers are at a loss as to what to do.
There are three suggestions: First, establish rules to regulate public presentation of test reports and implement random retest of food batches. Second, enhance the openness of information of testing laboratories, such as quality audition and compulsory revelation on the test report paper of whether the laboratories and the test item itself is accredited. Finally, increasing the density and depth of risk communication between the government and consumers. It is essential for the government to communicate with consumers issues such as the development of testing standards, to clarify the nature of food safety, and to define the obligations of consumers concerning food safety in their daily life.
Genuine food safety lies in the manufacture process, not in the testing. Through the above measures, the role of commissioned food testing will return to being about the control of food quality instead of the assurance of promises of safety.
|Appears in Collections:||公共事務研究所|
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