The Department of Health (DOH) yesterday said it could not confirm how much chemically enhanced US beef products had been consumed by the public, while the authorities said they had yet to trace the product back to its source.
On Friday, the department announced that between 1 and 2 parts per billion (ppb) of Paylean, an agent that promotes the production of lean meat in cattle, had been detected in three of 24 imported beef products sold in hypermarkets in northern parts of the country. All three products came from the US.
Health authorities have ordered stores to remove US beef products found to contain the additive.
This was the first time Paylean has been detected in US beef since Taiwan reopened its doors to some US beef products in 2007 after suspending imports amid concern about mad cow disease.
Paylean contains ractopamine, one of four animal feed additives along with salbutamol, terbutaline and clenbuterol, which are banned in Taiwan.
Amid reports that an estimated 1,500kg of the tainted beef had been purchased and consumed by the public, health officials said they were still unable to confirm how much had been consumed.
Costco said 160kg of filet and 300kg of sirloin were sold before the announcement by the department and that shoppers had since been returning beef products seeking refunds.
RT-Mart said it had imported 1,207kg of US beef products to be sold at 26 branch stores nationwide.
While it has been reported that about 90 percent of its beef products had been sold before the supermarket could take them off the shelves, it remained to be confirmed exactly how much was sold to consumers and how much had been returned.
Food and Drug Administration Director-General Kang Jaw-jou (康照洲) said the figures were difficult to calculate because some of the meat had been ground, mixed, packaged and sold with Paylean-free meat.
However, Kang said that as the levels of the banned chemical — between 0.64ppb and 2.84ppb — found in the products were low, they did not raise health concerns.
For beef containing between 1ppb and 2ppb of ractopamine, a person weighing 60kg would have to consume a minimum of 30kg per day before exceeding safety limits, the department said.
Meanwhile, lawmakers said they would press for tighter inspection measures on US beef.
“Taiwan has a zero-tolerance policy on the agents and if the US wants ... Taiwan to buy US beef, it should follow our regulations,” Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Yang Li-huan (楊麗環) said.
Lawmakers from both parties agreed the matter stemmed from an oversight by the health authorities that are tasked with monitoring and inspecting US beef.
KMT Legislator Daniel Hwang (黃義交) said he would not rule out enacting stricter regulatory measures on incoming shipments of US beef into law, adding that there appeared to be “holes” in the inspection process.
All US beef imports are supposed to go through a rigorous “three controls, five certifications” process implemented after Taiwan further opened its market to US beef parts more susceptible to mad cow disease in 2009.
At the time, the Presidential Office said the process, which involves setting controls at the source, checking for detailed product information and frequent food safety tests, would be effective in keeping hazardous parts out of the country.
These checks “obviously failed,” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Wang Sing-nan (王幸男) said, adding that he would request that government agencies step up the frequency of spot checks to at least half of all incoming US beef shipments.
Amid the crisis, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) has called on Taipei to drop its ban on lean meat agents, saying this would bring the country more in line with US and international standards.
AIT spokesman Chris Kavanagh said on Saturday that Taiwan had initially indicated to international bodies that it would lift the ban and revise its maximum ractopamine levels to 10ppb, although such measures had yet to be made.
The maximum standards, set by the WHO and the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), have been adopted by countries including the US, Australia and South Korea.
On its Web site, the FAO writes that the recommended limits for beef products range between 10ppb and 90ppb, the same amount for pork products. It concluded that the additive is safe for public consumption.
Kavanagh said the US encouraged Taiwan to “put in place import requirements consistent with best scientific research and international standards,” adding that ractopamine was “confirmed to be safe.”
However, it appeared unlikely that lawmakers would heed those recommendations.
“The US cannot, just because it is a big country, force other countries to abide by its [standards],” Wang said. “Lawmakers and the entire legislature should not back down in the face of such pressure.”
TWO CASES: The five allegedly conspired with conglomerates, threatening the nation’s governance and subverting the rules of ethical conduct, a deputy chief prosecutor said Taipei prosecutors yesterday charged three legislators and one former lawmaker with contravening the Anti-Corruption Act (貪污治罪條例) in a case linked to former Pacific Distribution Investment Co (太平洋流通) chairman Lee Heng-lung’s (李恆隆) battle with the Far Eastern Group (遠東集團) over ownership of the Pacific SOGO Department Store (太平洋崇光百貨) chain, while independent Legislator Chao Cheng-yu (趙正宇) was indicted in a separate case involving two funeral services companies and a plot of land in a national park. Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Chen Chao-ming (陳超明) and Sufin Siluko (廖國棟), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) and former New Power Party legislator
PENGHU INSPECTION: Taiwan cannot let its enemies strut around in its airspace, Tsai said, one day after a Chinese spokesman denied a median line exists in the Taiwan Strait Following China’s assertion on Monday that there is no “median line” in the Taiwan Strait, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday pledged to defend the nation’s airspace during a visit to an air force base in Penghu, saying that Taiwan cannot allow others to flex their military muscle in its territorial airspace. Tsai praised the “heroic performance” of the pilots of the Indigenous Defense Fighters who have been intercepting Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force planes in recent days. “I have a lot of confidence in you. As soldiers of the Republic of China [ROC], how could we let enemies strut
Swedish Member of Parliament Hampus Hagman is pushing for changing the name of the nation’s trade office in Taipei to signal improved relations with “Asia’s perhaps foremost democracy.” Hagman on Wednesday last week proposed renaming the Swedish Trade and Invest Council to “Sweden’s Office in Taipei,” following similar changes by other nations. The Swedish Trade and Invest Council, part of Business Sweden, is owned by the Swedish government and Swedish industry. Taiwan and Sweden share important values such as respect for democracy, human rights, the rule of law and freedom of speech, Hagman said in the motion, adding that the two nations
EFFICIENCY: The rules for Philippine arrivals were revised after 17.6% of arrivals with symptoms tested positive, compared with 0.7% of those with no symptoms Starting today, Chinese spouses who hold a reunion permit can apply to enter Taiwan and travelers without symptoms from the Philippines do not need to be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival, but are to be tested after a 14-day quarantine, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that from today, Chinese who are married to a Taiwanese citizen and hold a reunion permit can apply to the National Immigration Agency for entry into Taiwan. Chinese who are married to a foreign national and hold an accompanied reunion permit