Legislators across party lines reached a consensus yesterday to pass a proposed amendment to the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) that would ban imports of “risky” beef products from areas where cases of mad cow disease have been documented over the past decade.
The bill stipulates that “risky” products, including brains, eyes, spinal cords, intestines and ground beef, should be prohibited from entering Taiwan until effective treatment for the disease has been found.
The bill was proposed by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Daniel Hwang (黃義交) and backed by the KMT caucus. It will be put to the third reading next Tuesday, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said yesterday afternoon.
Lawmakers reached an agreement after Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators occupied the speaker’s podium, stacking it with placards and stalling the KMT’s plan to call for a vote on Hwang’s proposal.
The DPP proposal is similar to the KMT’s, but also seeks to ban bone-in beef and beef from cows older than 30 months of age from places hit by the disease over the past decade.
Legislators also agreed to vote on two DPP-sponsored resolutions on Tuesday: One would require that imports of bone-in beef be banned until a referendum is held on the matter; the second seeks to ban imports of products from cows older than 30 months of age.
President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration agreed to lift a ban on imports of US bone-in beef, offal and ground beef based on a protocol that it signed with the US in October, triggering widespread criticism because of fears of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.
KMT and DPP lawmakers proposed their draft amendments to the Act amid growing pressure from the public.
The DPP has demanded the Executive Yuan reopen negotiations with the US on the protocol covering US beef imports. National Security Council Secretary-General Su Chi (蘇起), however, ruled out a new round of talks during a press conference last Thursday, saying such a move would jeopardize Taiwan-US relations.
KMT caucus secretary-general Lu Hsueh-chang (呂學樟) told a press conference after yesterday’s session that the caucus had never compromised on its insistence on tightening beef imports even if its members had come under pressure from all sectors, “including the US.”
Lu said lawmakers also agreed on the KMT’s resolution that the KMT, the DPP and the government stand together in the face of pressure from other countries after the bill clears the legislative floor.
The DPP caucus called yesterday’s outcome a “giant victory for the people” and insisted that a referendum on bone-in US beef be held before the meat is allowed to enter the country.
Noting that the DPP caucus made two last-minute proposals — that the ban on meat from cattle above 30 months be maintained and that a referendum on US bone-in beef imports be held — DPP Legislator Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) said: “This is a choice between your taste buds and your health.”
The DPP caucus said the outcome was a product of a two-month dispute between the DPP and the KMT.
The DPP caucus blamed the Ma administration and the KMT for “wasting” two months and called on Ma to apologize and for Su to resign because he was the “brains” behind the deal.
American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) spokesman Thomas Hodges said AIT was “disappointed” with the outcome, but declined to elaborate.