Local governments push back as new ractopamine policy takes effect

Taipei,  Several local government heads in Taiwan have announced measures to oversee pork containing the livestock drug ractopamine, as a new central government policy lifting restrictions on imports of such meat went into effect on Friday, against objections from several quarters.

The mayors of Taipei, New Taipei and Taichung were responding one day after the Cabinet said it had notified local governments that their bans on the feed additive in imported pork would be invalidated on Jan. 1, citing the central government’s authority to set policy on matters relating to food safety.

In Taipei, Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) promoted an initiative to encourage retailers to set up “ractopamine-free sections,” which he said would preserve the public’s freedom to choose what they consume.

According to the city’s health department, 11 major retail chains have agreed to take part in the voluntary program — Taiwan Sugar Corp., Carrefour, Simple Mart, Far Eastern Group, Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Department Store Co., City Super, Wellcome, Costco, RT-Mart, Breeze Super and Pacific Sogo.

At the same time, the city will require meat importers to carry out ractopamine residue testing on a quarterly or batch-by-batch basis, and to publish the results of their tests on the city government’s Food Tracer Taipei website, said Deputy Mayor Huang Shan-shan (黃珊珊).

Meanwhile, New Taipei Mayor Hou Yu-ih (侯友宜) said that as of Friday, his city government requires nine types of retailers — including restaurants with 20 seats or more, fast food chains, supermarkets and bakeries — to publicly disclose the country of origin of their pork products and whether or not they contain ractopamine.

Within the first half of 2021, these regulations will be expanded to include breakfast shops, department store and hospital food courts, and convenience store chains, Hou said.

Taichung Mayor Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕) adopted the hardest stance among the three leaders, saying that her city will continue carrying out random testing of pork products and will impose penalties if any are found to contain ractopamine.

“Taichung has had a `zero tolerance’ policy on ractopamine in its local government ordinance on food safety since 2017,” Lu said.

“The central government now wants to make concessions (to the United States), but the city government will not. We will continue to increase testing and will punish any violators.”

The Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) administration’s decision to open Taiwan’s doors to imported pork with ractopamine residue, starting Jan. 1, is widely viewed as an effort by the government to satisfy U.S. prerequisites for any negotiations on a bilateral trade deal.

Of the three mayors, Hou and Lu are members of the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT), while Ko leads the centrist Taiwan People’s Party.

The KMT pledged on Thursday to help local governments seek a constitutional interpretation on the legality of the government’s move to invalidate local ractopamine bans.


Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

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