Five days after staging a protest against a government plan to lift a ban on imports of US beef containing residues of the feed additive ractopamine, local hog farmers face allegations of using banned leanness-enhancing feed additives that are reportedly much more toxic to humans.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Alex Tsai (蔡正元) told a press conference yesterday that seven out of 10 pork products tested were found to contain traces of salbutamol as well as cimaterol, adding that both are more toxic than ractopamine.
Tsai said that tests conducted by I-Mei Foods Co’s (義美食品) food safety lab, as shown in a paper dated March 7, revealed that traces of salbutamol and cimaterol were found in two sausage products from T-Ham (台畜) and Hsin Tung Yang (新東陽).
Photo: Hsieh Chia-chun, Taipei Times
The paper showed that 9.16 parts per billion (ppb) of salbutamol and 4.98ppb of cimaterol were found in T-Ham’s sausage, while 0.68ppb of salbutamol and 2.98ppb of cimaterol in Hsin Tung Yang’s sausage.
The paper also showed tests on frozen backbone, ground pork meat, skin, pork belly, kidneys and liver, which Tsai said were bought at supermarkets, were found to contain salbutamol residues ranging from 0.22ppb to 0.37ppb.
T-Ham and Hsin Tung Yang yesterday rejected the lab’s findings.
Tsai said pig farmers favor using salbutamol over ractopamine as a leanness-enhancing feed additive for pigs because ractopamine is more expensive.
Tsai said he publicized the test results to highlight the problem of illegal use of leanness-enhancing feed additives and urged health authorities to intensify inspections of meat products to safeguard public health.
He declined to explain how he obtained the test results.
“Health authorities should conduct residue tests not only for ractopamine, but also other types of meat-enhancing feed additives,” he said.
When asked by reporters to verify the test results, Wu Rong-tsan (吳榮燦), an associate general manager at I-Mei Foods, said its food safety lab did not provide Tsai with the results because the lab was not commissioned by Tsai to conduct the tests.
“Since the issue has drawn a lot of attention, there has been an increase in the number of cases sent to the lab for testing. In accordance with business ethics, we cannot comment on test results or give the results to people who are not our clients,” Wu said.
Tsai’s allegations came one day after the Executive Yuan issued a press release saying the government had recently received complaints that residues of leanness-enhancing feed additives had been found in pork products on the market.
In response to Premier Sean Chen’s (陳冲) demand that the Department of Health and the Council of Agriculture look into the matter and propose measures to address the problem, the council yesterday announced that starting today, local hog farmers would be required to provide certificates proving their pigs were not fed meat-enhancing additives, as part of a self-management program to ensure meat safety.
Violators will face stepped-up inspections, steep fines and even criminal charges, it added.
Hsu Kuei-sen (許桂森), head of the council’s Department of Animal Husbandry, said on Tuesday that under the program, the nation’s 9,800 pig farmers would have to provide such guarantees every time they make a delivery to customers.
“If they don’t sign the written guarantee, their names will be published, which should strengthen the management system,” Hsu said.
According to the council, there are 25 drugs that promote lean meat in food animals and all are banned in Taiwan.
Yang Guan-chang (楊冠章), director of the Republic of China Swine Association, said that he supported the proposed measure because it would get rid of “a few rogue farmers” and regain the public’s trust in the safety of local meat products.
Lai Shiow-suey (賴秀穗), a professor emeritus at National Taiwan University’s School of Veterinary Medicine, was quoted by local media as saying that “salbutamol is 2,000 times more toxic than the more commonly known ractopamine,” describing the drug as a substance that is not easy to metabolize and tends to stay in the body for a long time.
Additional reporting by CNA
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