Sat, Aug 04, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Banned additive in more samples

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH CNA

More cases of ractopamine usage in domestic meat have emerged. Two samples of domestic pork were found to contain as much as 2.94 parts per billion (ppb) of the banned food additive, Department of Health officials said yesterday.

Cheng Huei-wen (鄭慧文), the director of the department's Bureau of Food Sanitation (BFS) told reporters that stepped-up inspections of domestic pork had revealed the presence of the animal feed additive in three samples out of the 43 tested.

SAMPLES

One sample from Pingtung contained 2.94ppb of ractopamine while a sample from Tainan contained 1.60ppb.

The bureau had announced five days ago that a sample of pork from Miaoli was tainted with 0.37ppb of ractopamine.

The beta-agonist ractopamine first came into the public eye late last month when two shipments of US pork were rejected by customs because they contained 0.15 ppb and 0.35ppb of ractopamine respectively.

Ractopamine is a legal animal feed additive in the US, marketed under the trade name Paylean for its ability to cause livestock to gain lean meat fast.

However, its use was banned by the Council of Agriculture along with other beta-agonists such as clenbuterol.

Local reports said that the council detected three instances of ractopamine in goose meat over the past year but had failed to publicize the test results.

Huang Kwo-ching (黃國青), an official with the council's Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Qurantine, played down the reports yesterday, saying they were not recent.

"We do not want to publicize the results of our routine testings. We don't want to panic consumers and threaten producers' livelihoods," Huang said. "We have done our job and fined the parties determined to be responsible, and we have ensured that none of the tainted meat made it to market."

BACKLOG

Cheng said there was already a backlog of pork to be processed and that capacity was strained.

"We simply do not have the manpower at the time being to sample geese for ractopamine as well, nor do we have the funds to get outside companies to do the work," he said.

Cheng estimated that the cost of having an outside laboratory test meat for ractopamine would amount to NT$5,000 per sample.

"Our limited resources are stretched thin and it is possible that routine inspections could be impacted if we put too much focus on ractopamine," he said.

The zero-tolerance policy for ractopamine is unnecessary and unfair to pork vendors, Cheng said.

"Under the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法), vendors selling pork containing ractopamine can be fined from NT$30,000 to NT$150,000," he said. "But they have no means of testing the pork they sell to ensure that it is ractopamine-free."

Saying that low levels of ractopamine are unlikely to have an adverse effect on consumers, Cheng said the health department will propose a legal limit to be set at 10 ppb. The department will talk with the Council of Agriculture to come up with a sensible allowable residue limit, he said.

Meanwhile, prosecutors from Changhua County carried out raids at 10 locations nationwide on Thursday, seizing 1,374kg of the banned veterinary drug and a smaller amount of the animal antibiotic nalectin, also known as chloramphenicol.

The prosecutors, who were accompanied by Changhua police, traveled to Taipei City to search the office of an international trading firm and took the company's owner, Ho Bo-yen (何博彥), back to the Changhua for questioning.

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