Executive Yuan spokesperson Hu Yu-wei (胡幼偉) last night urged opposition parties to reconsider their stance against easing the ban on imports of US beef containing ractopamine residue after the Codex Alimentarius Commission narrowly voted in favor of maximum residue levels (MRLs) for the livestock leanness-enhancing food additive.
The Democratic Progressive Party, the Taiwan Solidarity Union and the People First Party had suggested that Taiwan hold off on a decision on revising its zero-tolerance policy on ractopamine until after the commission made a decision about the draft MRLs for ractopamine, Hu said.
“Hopefully they can now use the Codex Alimentarius standard as a reference in deciding their position,” Hu said.
Last night, the Executive Yuan learned that the draft MRLs proposed by the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), which serves as a scientific advisory body to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, the WHO and the Codex Alimentarius Commission — the international food standards body — were ratified at the 35th Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting in Rome this week.
In 2004, the JECFA recommended MRLs of ractopamine of 10 parts per billion (ppb) in muscle and fatty tissues, 40ppb in livers and 90ppb in kidneys of cattle and pigs.
The government learned that the US called for a vote on the adoption, deviating from normal practice, in which food-safety standards are decided by consensus.
He said the government has learned that the Codex Alimentarius Commission agreed to hold a vote on the draft MRLs by a vote of 68 to 64, and 69 countries then voted in favor of the proposal, while 67 were against it.
Since 2004, it has been proved scientifically that beef containing traces of residue under the MRLs is safe for consumption, Hu said, adding that the Rome vote again demonstrated that the products do not harm human health.
DPP spokesperson Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) said the party had learned that the MRLs have been passed and it agrees that Taiwan should adopt the international standards.
The DPP insists that public health and food safety are a priority and that it never opposed imports of US beef, Lin said, adding that it values economic relations and the strategic partnership with the US.
"What we stressed was that the ban on importing beef containing ractopamine should not be lifted before the international community reached a consensus on the issue," Lin said.
Additional reporting by Chris Wang
This story has been updated since it was first published.