A plan by the government to separate beef and pork when allowing traces of the feed additive ractopamine fell short of receiving the support of the US, which has been urging Taiwan to review the ban based on what it calls scientific evidence.
“We do understand why the [Taiwanese] government is separating the beef and pork issues, and we hope they will eventually set MRL [maximum residue levels] for ractopamine so that we can return to doing trade in important areas,” American Institute in Taiwan spokesperson Sheila Paskman said yesterday.
To resolve the long-running dispute with the US amid public concern over the possible impact of the additive on health, the government on March 5 proposed changing regulations to allow imports of US beef with “acceptable” levels of ractopamine residue under four conditions.
The third annual Report on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS report), published by the Office of the US Trade -Representative (USTR) on Monday, -mentioned the planned changes to the zero-tolerance limits for the presence of ractopamine residues in meat imported to Taiwan.
At the center of the controversy is one of the four principles under which Taiwan would allow imports of US beef and beef products containing ractopamine residues, except internal organs, but keep in place the ban on pork with ractopamine residues.
Along with the latest SPS report, various reports on foreign trade barriers published by the USTR over the years have shown that the US wants Taiwan to implement a single MRL for beef and pork, while scores of US lawmakers have been urging Taiwan to also apply its planned food standards for beef to pork.
Asked by the Taipei Times if the US would support a plan that treats beef and pork separately in terms of the ban on ractopamine, Paskman said: “It’s not really for me to say. What I can say is that we understand what their thinking is.”
She declined to comment on whether a potential MRL for beef should be applied to pork products.
“At this point, we just want to achieve one step at a time,” she said.
The “first concern” of the US is beef, Paskman said.
“I don’t even want to discuss that [the pork issue], because right now what we are concentrating on is beef,” she said.
Asked about the ban on internal organs even if the government sets an MRL for ractopamine in imported beef, Paskman said the US would like to see the ban on internal organs lifted, too, but “that’s not part of the ractopamine discussion.”
“What we are looking for right now is just to return to where we were. The banning of internal organs has nothing to do with ractopamine,” she said.
The legislature revised the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) in 2009, reimposing -restrictions on ground beef, brains, eyes, spinal cords and intestines after the government signed a protocol with the US earlier that year to reopen the market to US bone-in-beef that had been prohibited following the detection of a bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)-positive animal in the US in 2003.
In response to the four principles, Paskman said: “We want the decision [on ractopamine residues] to be based on scientific evidence. It’s not for us to dictate policy to Taiwan, but we do want them to make the policy based on the real evidence, not on emotional issues.”