Mon, Jul 30, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Drug-tainted pork discovered in Miaoli

RACTOPAMINE The amount of residue from the beta-agonist found in a sample was higher than that in two shipments of pork from the US that were banned two weeks ago

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

After rejecting two shipments of pork from the US less than two weeks ago for containing a banned feed additive, a sample of domestic pork was found to be tainted with the same substance -- ractopamine -- a health official said yesterday.

The sample was taken at a traditional market in Miaoli but the pig that it came from was from a farm in Changhua, Bureau of Food Sanitation (BFS) Director Cheng Huei-wen (鄭慧文) said.

The batch of pork the sample was taken from has been pulled from the market and would be destroyed, BFS officials said.

No pigs coming from the same farm will be allowed to be sold for at least two months, they said.

The two-month period will allow any ractopamine in other pigs to be metabolized, making it safe to slaughter them for sale, the officials said.

"We are working with local health officials in Changhua to freeze sales of pork from the same production unit until more tests can be carried out," Cheng said.

The concentration of ractopamine found in the sample was 0.37 parts per billion (ppb).

The ractopamine found in the two US pork shipments was 0.15 and 0.32 ppb respectively.

Ractopamine, also known by its trade name Paylean, is among a family of compounds known as beta-agonists.

The Council of Agriculture has banned the use of a number of beta-agonists as veterinary drugs, including salbutamol, terbutaline and clenbuterol.

Some countries, including the US, allow the use of ractopamine to help hogs put on lean weight quickly, hence its nickname "lean meat essence" (瘦肉精) in Taiwan.

Cheng said that although the amount of ractopamine detected in the Miaoli sample was well below the WHO's recommended acceptable daily intake of 10 ppb, the Department of Health would work with the Council of Agriculture to eliminate its use.

"We do not think that ractopamine concentrations this low will adversely affect consumers," Cheng said.

"However, since the council has banned ractopamine, we will do our best to enforce that ban," he said.

Huang Kwo-ching (黃國青), an official with the council's Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine, said 0.81 percent of the more than 6,000 hogs his division tested last year were found to have banned beta-agonist drugs in their systems.

"The owners of the hogs are fined NT$6,000 to NT$30,000," Huang said.

"Feed manufacturers are liable for up to three years in jail if found to have broken the Enforcement Rules of Veterinary Drugs Control Act (動物用藥品管理法)," he said.

Ractopamine and other beta-agonists were never approved for use, Huang said, and were specifically banned by the council last year to protect consumer health.

"An outright ban is the most secure way of preventing abuse," Huang told the Taipei Times when asked why the council had banned ractopamine instead of setting a maximum concentration like the US has done.

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