Sun, Feb 19, 2012 - Page 1 News List

Sean Chen weighs in on US beef spat

SHOW ME THE BEEF:An expert who was quoted as attributing Jeremy Lin’s performance to US beef said yesterday that he was trying to highlight that it was a toxicological issue

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporter

Wang Jen-hsien, director of China Medical University Hospital’s department of infection control, arrives at a meeting of the Cabinet task force convened to address the issue of US beef imports on Friday last week.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) yesterday dismissed comments about rising NBA star Jeremy Lin’s (林書豪) success being attributable to his eating US beef, made by a member of the Cabinet task force convened to address the issue of imports of US beef containing ractopamine residue.

“Saying that NBA players play basketball well because they eat US beef is not a scientific argument,” Chen said. “We need evidence and [medical] literature to prove [such an argument.]”

Chen made the remarks in response to a report in the Chinese-language Apple Daily yesterday, which quoted Wang Jen-hsien (王任賢), director of China Medical University Hospital’s Department of Infection Control, as having told the task force on Feb. 10 when it convened its first meeting that “Jeremy Lin made it to the NBA because he eats US beef. Taiwanese couldn’t [make it to the NBA] because they don’t [eat US beef.]”

Born and raised in the US, Lin is the first American of Taiwanese descent to play in the NBA. The performance of the new starting point guard for the New York Knicks over the past two weeks has given him an international following.

Elaborating on his remarks yesterday, Wang said he meant to highlight that the controversy over whether Taiwan should allow -imports of US beef products containing traces of ractopamine was a toxicological issue that “we lack a clear understanding about in the country.”

He said that ractopamine was mistakenly viewed as a highly toxic drug.

Ractopamine is a type of beta-agonist, a class of drugs that accelerate the maturation of animals and increases the lean meat ratio, Wang said in an op-ed article. Although ractopamine has not been approved for use in humans, other beta--agonists are used, for example bronchodilators, a medication used to treat wheezing in asthmatics or those who have influenza, he added.

The chance of being poisoned by consuming beef with ractopamine residues is very low because cattle excrete ractopamine within 24 hours of consuming the feed additive, which is as fast as it is excreted from the human body after people eat beef, Wang said.

Amid calls from the US to ease the ban, which have escalated since the Jan. 14 presidential election, the government set up an ad hoc task force on Feb. 6 to serve as a technical advisory committee to consider whether ractopamine in cattle or hogs poses a risk to human health.

Lin Chieh-liang (林杰樑), a toxicologist at Linkuo Chang Gung Memorial Hospital who was not invited to sit on the committee, disagreed with Wang’s comments, saying that the comparison of the relative health risks from ractopamine faced by Taiwanese and US meat consumers was incorrect.

Taiwanese eat more animal offal than Americans and there is a much greater and longer-lasting presence of ractopamine residue in viscera, Lin said.

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