Expanded U.S. pork, beef imports to Taiwan to begin next year

Taipei,  Taiwan will allow imports of pork containing a controversial feed additive and American beef from cattle aged over 30 months starting on Jan. 1, 2021, the Cabinet-level Council of Agriculture (COA) said Friday.

The COA will add ractopamine, a leanness-enhancing veterinary drug, to a list of items allowed in trace amounts in meats, said COA chief Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲), after President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) set the stage for lifting Taiwan’s ban on ractopamine in imported pork.

Tsai announced Friday that Taiwan will set standards for ractopamine in imported pork and ease restrictions on American beef in an apparent attempt to pave the way to broker a trade deal with the United States.

The United States has pushed ractopamine as being safe for consumption by humans based on scientific studies for more than a decade, but critics say those studies have not been comprehensive and point to ractopamine’s harmful effects on pigs.

Chen said the COA will adopt maximum residue level standards for ractopamine in imported pork based on standards set by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, which are 10 parts per billion of ractopamine in pork and beef meat, 40 ppb in livers, and 90 ppb in kidneys.

The MRLs, however, will only be applied to imported pork and that the ban on the additive in domestic hog-raising will remain, Chen said.

Because no law has to be amended, the revision does not require legislative approval, the COA chief said.

The COA will simply revise administrative regulations set by the COA and Ministry of Health and Welfare, and make the revisions public by mid-September before they take effect on Jan. 1, 2021.

That timeline was set for government agencies to have enough time to prepare for the market opening and introduce measures ensuring the proper labeling of imported meat products, Chen said.

According to government figures, Taiwan imported 84,341 tons of ractopamine-free fresh, chilled and frozen pork worth US$221 million in 2019. Of that, 13.11 percent in terms of volume and 12.73 percent in terms of value came from the U.S.

As for beef, Taiwan imported 133,006 tons of fresh, chilled and frozen beef last year, 64,377 tons, or 48.40 percent, of which came from the United States, the data showed.

That translated to three kilograms of beef containing traces of ractopamine consumed by each Taiwanese on average last year, Chen said.

The COA chief claimed that ractopamine had the least impact on human health of any animal drug, without providing any evidence and even as many countries, including in the European Union, continue to ban its use.

Taiwan allowed imports of beef containing ractopamine in 2012, but pork is more politically sensitive than beef because it is consumed in far greater quantities, and more than 90 percent of the pork consumed is from locally raised hogs.

Concerned that the opening could hurt the local hog industry, Tsai said a NT$10 billion (US$340 million) fund would be established to support hog farmers’ incomes and protect them from the new policy.

 

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

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