AIT insists U.S. pork is safe amid concerns raised by Taichung mayor

Taipei,  The de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan on Wednesday sought to assure the public that all U.S. food exports to the country are safe to eat amid concerns raised by Taichung City’s mayor over the central government’s decision to lift a ban on imports of American pork containing residues of a controversial veterinary drug next year.

“All U.S. exports to Taiwan and our other trade partners are safe and meet the same high, evidence-based standards that we follow for our own consumption in the United States. Safe here. Safe there. Safe everywhere,” Amanda Mansour, spokeswoman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) told CNA.

The spokeswoman’s comments were made after Taichung Mayor Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕) of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), in a meeting with AIT Director Brent Christensen earlier in the day, raised concerns about the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government’s decision to soon allow imports of pork containing ractopamine, a leanness-enhancing drug.

AIT represents U.S. interest in Taiwan in the absence of official diplomatic ties.

During their meeting in the Taichung City Hall, Lu told Christensen that the Taichung City Council and its citizens have all expressed opposition to the central government’s decision to allow ractopamine residue in imported pork, due to concerns over the safety of the veterinary drug.

Lu said her government will continue to adhere to its local food safety regulations, which ban ractopamine in pork, even after the new policy takes effect next year, to safeguard the health of its people.

Asked to comment, the AIT spokeswoman called on all parties involved to approach the ractopamine issue “responsibly and on the basis of science.”

“When political figures propagate disinformation and raise unfounded anxiety among Taiwan consumers, it is a disservice to everyone,” she said.

She added that the U.S. and Taiwan are partners in safety and in security.

“We are confident that our robust trade relationship will continue to be an important and mutually beneficial part of that partnership,” Mansour said.

The new policy was announced by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Aug. 28 when she said her administration will set maximum residue levels for ractopamine in pork to allow imports from the U.S., starting on Jan. 1, 2021. Tsai also said Taiwan would open its market to U.S. beef from cattle aged over 30 months, which had been barred because of fears of mad-cow disease.

The decisions were seen as an apparent effort to clear the way for a trade deal with Washington.

Ractopamine can be used in pigs in the U.S. but is currently banned for use in Taiwan as well as in the European Union and China because of concerns over its safety to both animals and humans.

The U.S., however, has long criticized Taiwan’s zero-tolerance policy on ractopamine in pork as an impediment to trade, and has not held formal talks on trade with Taiwan through the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) framework since October 2016.

Critics of Tsai’s decision have argued that it fails to prioritize the health of the Taiwanese people or the interests of local pig farmers.

Despite government assurances, local farmers fear their pork will also be rejected by worried consumers once U.S. pork containing ractopamine is allowed to be sold in Taiwan, especially without proper labeling.

Since Tsai’s announcement, a number of local governments, including Taichung, have said they will continue to adhere to their food safety regulations to ban ractopamine in pork, even after the new policy takes effect.

 

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

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