The Cabinet’s proposal to allow imports of beef that contain residue of ractopamine — a drug used in livestock feed to boost growth — was voted down in a legislative committee meeting yesterday, but the issue will be put to a vote in a plenary session at a later date.
A review of the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) at the legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee meeting resulted in a decision to adopt a zero-tolerance policy on lean-meat additives, a proposal put forward by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
After negotiations between party caucuses, the committee voted on a series of amendments, including the issue of limiting residues of lean-meat additives, as well as requiring that food be labeled to inform consumers about additives contained and the country of origin.
The Executive Yuan’s proposal to conditionally lift the ban on lean-meat additives and to formulate a safe maximum residue limit, supported by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), was rejected by one vote.
With KMT Legislator Cheng Ju-fen (鄭汝芬), who is against permitting ractopamine residue in imported meat, boycotting the vote and KMT Legislator Tsai Chin-lung (蔡錦隆), the committee’s convener, not allowed to vote, the DPP proposal — which was supported by the Taiwan Solidarity Union — was passed with seven votes in favor and six against.
Cheng said that being absent from the meeting was a gesture to demonstrate her efforts to safeguard public health.
Commenting on the results, Department of Health Minister Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) said: “We will comply with the legislature’s decision.”
Jubilant DPP legislators shouted “the people’s victory, keen on zero tolerance,” and said Cheng’s absence was key to the final outcome.
“This is a historical moment, showing that public opinion is the most important thing and that today is a victory for the people,” DPP whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said.
He urged KMT lawmakers to stand with the public.
KMT whip Lin Hung-chih (林鴻池) said he was disappointed with the result. Lin added that the Cabinet must step up its communication with the legislature on major policies.
Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said that while the DPP proposal obtained more votes at this stage, a final decision on the draft amendments related to the import of US beef would be determined later at a plenary session of the legislature.
American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) spokesman Christopher Kavanagh reiterated the US stance that it hoped Taiwan would establish maximum residue levels for ractopamine based on scientific evidence. The AIT maintains that studies have shown ractopamine is safe.
Additional reporting by CNA