The government yesterday vowed to carefully monitor developments following the discovery of a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad cow disease, in a dairy cow in the US on Tuesday. It said it would take appropriate action once all the necessary information had been received.
“As soon as we obtain comprehensive information from the US and see how other countries are reacting, we will thoroughly review our import policy,” Executive Yuan spokesman Philip Yang (楊永明) said.
The US Department of Agriculture confirmed on Tuesday that there was a BSE case in California.
The Presidential Office said President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was fully aware of the matter and had instructed the Council of Agriculture and the Department of Health to handle the issue.
Presidential Office Secretary-General Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權) said there were no immediate plans to hold a National Security Council meeting, but the government would pay close attention to South Korean and Japanese responses.
Meanwhile, Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) called an emergency meeting with representatives from the agriculture council, the health department and the ministries of foreign affairs and economic affairs at about noon yesterday.
Yang said Chen asked the officials to request more information from the US, but decided not to tighten controls on US beef imports or change import inspections for the time being.
While the government is waiting for information on the case and to see how other countries respond, “we will strengthen the enforcement of the three management and five checkpoints measures” to ensure food safety, Yang said, referring to inspection practices that have been in place since 2009.
Under the mechanism, Taiwan set controls on US beef imports at the source, at borders and in the market.
Yang said the US government was obligated to conduct a thorough epidemiological survey following the discovery of a BSE case, then convey the result to Taiwan and consult with Taiwanese officials about its findings.
Asked why the government did not adopt a more proactive policy, Yang said the decision was made based on information the government had received from the US.
The California case occurred in a dairy cow over the age of 30 months rather than in beef cattle, the agency said, adding that the carcass had been destroyed, no meat had entered the food chain and that it was “a sporadic case.”
The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) had shared the information with Taipei, spokesperson Christopher Kavanagh said in a telephone interview.
The case was confirmed as an atypical type of BSE, the carcass was not going to be slaughtered for beef, and milk does not transmit BSE, the AIT said.
So at no time did it present a risk to the food supply or human health, Kavanagh said.
Thel type of BSE in question is a very rare form of the disease and not generally associated with animals consuming infected feeds, he said.
The US has shared its laboratory results with international animal health reference laboratories in Canada and the UK, which are official World Animal Health (OIE) reference labs, and they have conducted a comprehensive investigation into the case, he said.
The case “in no way affected the US’ BSE status listed in the OIE because we have implemented all the elements of the system that the OIE has determined that it needed to have for beef and beef products to be safe for human consumption,” he said.