After coming in for harsh criticism for being unprepared to deal with food-related emergencies like the recent dioxin scandal and a chain of food-poisoning incidents, the Agriculture-Forestry Ministry said it will reorganize itself as a ``Food and Agriculture Ministry,'' absorbing the food safety responsibilities of the Health-Social Welfare Ministry.
According to the Agriculture-Forestry Ministry yesterday, it will develop an administrative system to oversee everything from breeding and cultivation to distribution, thus simplifying the current split-level system and strengthening food safety measures.
The move, though new to Korea, is already a trend in other World Trade Organization (WTO) countries, said Kim Tong-tae, vice minister of agriculture and forestry.
``Most advanced nations have been unifying their agriculture and food safety departments in order to ensure the safety of both imported and domestic food products,'' Kim said.
Integrating the two systems will simplify the current process of monitoring food safety as well as make it easier to track down and recall health-hazardous food in the event of cases like the recent dioxin-laced pork incident, the official said.
The government cited three examples where such joint systems have been adopted abroad.
Canada, for example, combined its agriculture and food safety departments in 1992 ahead of inaugurating a separate food safety administration to protect manufacturers and consumers in 1997, the ministry said.
Denmark, put its food safety administration under the agricultural department in 1997 and set up a veterinary branch to oversee the safety of agriculture, animal and marine products. …