The Council of Agriculture (COA) has lodged an appeal after the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) classified Taiwan among nations harboring a "controlled risk" for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), rather than a "negligible risk."
The OIE, an international standards body for animal health and diseases, last month introduced a three-tiered system for assessing the risk of BSE in cattle in different countries. Although BSE has never been reported in Taiwan, it has been grouped with countries such as the US and Canada in the "controlled risk" category.
Only five countries have been granted "negligible risk" status: Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Uruguay and Singapore.
One of the reasons why Taiwan did not qualify for "negligible risk" status was that it had imported bonemeal from the US as animal feed until 2003, when BSE was discovered in the US, said Chiang Hsien-choung, head of the Animal health inspection group at the COA's Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine.
"The OIE stipulates that countries can only be classified as having a `negligible risk' if they have not imported bonemeal from BSE-outbreak areas for the past seven years, but how could we have predicted the outbreak in the United States in advance?" Chiang said.
Bureau director Watson Sung (
David Cheng (鄭慧文), the director of the Department of Health's Bureau of Food Sanitation, yesterday rebutted claims that Taiwan's classification in the "controlled risk" category would result in pressure for the unconditional importation of beef from other nations in the same tier.
Taiwan issued an import ban on beef from Canada, the US, Japan, Britain and several EU countries on Dec. 31, 2003, amid fears over the threat of BSE.
The Canadian government applied to the Department of Health in March 2004 to lift the import ban, and the department last Saturday agreed to allow Canadian beef imports with stringent restrictions.
The decision to lift the ban on importing Canadian beef was reached independently before the OIE assessments were known, Cheng said.
"The OIE assessments are not binding," he said. "We will use our own research to determine the risk of importing beef from various countries."
Additional reporting by CNA
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