Amid the continuing dispute over US beef imports, the Cabinet yesterday passed three draft amendments to the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) related to leanness-enhancing drugs
However, one striking element in the Cabinet’s proposed revisions — which are headed to the legislature for review — was the lack of wording specifying that beef and pork would be treated separately in relation to the ban on ractopamine, despite a pledge by the Cabinet that it would separate the permits for beef and pork imports.
The Cabinet said earlier last month that four principles would be adopted in relaxing the ban — establishing a safe level for ractopamine residues for beef imports; differentiating standards for beef and pork imports; requiring labeling on beef products; and maintaining a ban on imports of US beef offal.
Among the three proposed amendments passed by the Cabinet yesterday, one stipulates that meat products, including brains, eyes, spinal cords, ground meat and offal, either locally produced or imported, may not contain residual traces of beta-agonists, a class of leanness-enhancing drugs, except for those with acceptable traces of feed additives determined by a central regulatory agency to be safe for human consumption.
Council of Agricultural Affairs Minister Chen Bao-ji (陳保基) assured the public that the central government would stick to the four principles, including treating beef and pork separately in terms of the ban on ractopamine, even though this was not written into the proposed amendments.
“Since separating the permits for the use of ractopamine in beef and pork is a policy set in stone, we will stand by that principle,” Chen said at a press conference.
Other proposed provisions include the requirement that information about the amount of feed additives used, product manufacturers, their contact information and country of origin, among others, be listed on food product labels.
Violators could face fines of between NT$60,000 (US$2,034) and NT$6 million, while serious offenders may be stripped of their operating licenses.
Cabinet spokesman Philip Yang (楊永明) said the three provisions were drafted based on the aforementioned four principles under which Taiwan would allow imports of US beef containing ractopamine residues, a policy that he said gave equal consideration to public health and overall national interests.
The Cabinet’s proposal contained 59 provisions, but only three relating to the use of feed additives would be immediately sent to the legislature for review, he added.
Meanwhile, the legislature will be starting anew with its preliminary review of regulations for the easing of restrictions on the presence of residues of leanness-enhancing drugs in meat imports as lawmakers yesterday overruled an attempt by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) on Thursday last week to railroad related bills through a legislative committee.
A total of 18 amendments to the Act Governing Food Sanitation — initiated by lawmakers from all parties who oppose the use of ractopamine and the proposal drafted by the Cabinet — are scheduled for a preliminary review by the legislature’s Sanitation, Environment and Social Welfare Committee on April 23.
At the committee meeting yesterday, chaired by rotating convener Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) of the Democratic Progressive Party, lawmakers agreed that the decision announced by KMT Legislator Tsai Chin-lung (蔡錦隆) at the committee meeting last week was invalid. At that meeting, amendments introduced by the lawmakers were thrown out even before the review began.