Wed, Feb 22, 2012 - Page 1 News List

Expert questions transparency of US beef meetings

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporter

Protesters hold banners reading “No to leanness-enhancing agents” and “No closed-door deals” outside the Council of Agriculture in Taipei yesterday after they were excluded from an inter-ministerial meeting about US beef and the feed additive ractopamine.

Photo: CNA

An expert who had been invited to give his views at an inter-ministerial meeting on the issue of US beef imports yesterday left about 10 minutes after the meeting began, saying that the process was not transparent.

Chou Chin-cheng (周晉澄), dean and chairman of the Institute of Veterinary Clinical Science at National Taiwan University’s School of Veterinary Medicine, walked out of the meeting — the second to be held on the controversy surrounding ractopamine residue in US beef imports — after his request that the Council of Agriculture make the transcripts of the meeting public was rejected.

“The government has to publicize all the information it bases its decisions on, regardless of whether the information is correct or incorrect,” Chou told reporters.

He said he was the only participant who wanted the council to provide either a transcript or video of the meeting to the public.

If the government really welcomes various opinions, the different views expressed in the meeting should be made public — not just the conclusions, Chou said.

Chou said he would attend the next committee meeting if invited, but would again insist that the discussions be made public.

At a press conference afterward, Council of Agriculture Deputy Minister Hu Sing-hwa (胡興華) said a majority of the participants were in favor of a closed-door meeting and opposed the release of a transcript so they could speak freely.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) and Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Lin Shih-chia (林世嘉) led about 30 people from nine civic groups in a small protest outside the council’s headquarters as the meeting was being held.

“We have three demands. First, as the issue is a public health matter, there is no room for compromise with the US. Second, the council has to open all of its meeting records for public inspection. Third, the committee should be reshuffled,” Homemakers’ Union and Foundation chairperson Chen Man-li (陳曼麗) said.

While the first meeting on the issue was criticized for being one-sided, several experts from the private sector who oppose the use of ractopamine in animal feed were invited to yesterday’s meeting, although they were in the minority.

Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) said the government would intensify its efforts to enforce control measures on feed additives.

His comments came after reports that traces of ractopamine residue had been found in US beef products in the local market.

The government could increase the inspection rate on US beef imports or revoke licenses from importers that fail to enforce restrictions on US beef imports that contain ractopamine residue, Chen said.

His comments came after some hypermarket chains, including Carrefour, RT-Mart and A-Mart, temporarily removed US beef products from their shelves after the products were found to contain traces of ractopamine.

“The use of beta-agonists [like ractopamine] is still banned. Sale of any meat which contains the substance is illegal.” the premier said.

Importers found violating the regulation would be subject to higher border inspection rates or could have import permits revoked,” he said.

Under pressure from Washington, where research has shown that ractopamine, a leanness-promoting agent, is used in the raising of 45 percent of US pigs and 30 percent of ration-fed cattle, the government has resigned itself to considering lifting the ban.

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