• Asia grapples with food safety as incomes increase

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    SINGAPORE: Every morning, food samples are laid out on a long table at a pristine laboratory run by a German firm in Singapore – but they’re not meant for chefs or gourmets.

    Testing company TUV SUD is watching out for contaminants that could harm consumers in Singapore and other parts of Asia, which has recently been rocked by food-safety scandals.

    Sales of US fast food giant McDonald’s in China were hammered this year following news reports alleging that a supplier mixed expired meat with fresh deliveries.

    A Taiwan company is currently embroiled in a widening scare after it was found selling hundreds of tons of waste “gutter oil” to food makers, bakeries and restaurants forcing the recall of cakes, bread, instant noodles, cookies, dumplings and other food items at home and in Hong Kong.

    On a recent visit by Agence France-Presse to the TUV SUD lab in Singapore, chemists in white gowns carried out a battery of tests on milk powder from the Philippines, seafood from Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia, and locally processed food for consumption in the city-state as well as other Asian countries.

    “I’ve been working in the industry for the past 25 years and every few years there’s something major,” said Chong Kok Yong, a vice president responsible for food safety at TUV SUD in Singapore.

    “It’s an ongoing challenge because there are parties who want to make more from less, so they are always trying to make poor-quality food look good. So there’s always temptation for them to do something illegal,” he added.

    Changing consumption pat-terns driven by Asia’s ex-panding middle class, the globalization of the food chain, and the transfer of new diseases from animals to humans have made it more complica-ted to combat the risks, ex- perts warned.

    Sivapuram V.R.K. Prabhakar, a senior policy researcher at the Japan-based Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), said many countries “still handle the issue by handing over bits and pieces of the food safety puzzle to various ministries and agencies without much coordina-tion and collaboration.”

    AFP

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