Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) yesterday pledged to balance the needs of the nation with international trade rules in relaxing the government’s zero-tolerance policy on the use of the livestock feed additive ractopamine.
“We will have a policy that reassures the public and the legislature, and does not violate WTO rules,” Chen said.
The long-running controversy over the use of ractopamine on cattle and pigs was resolved internationally at the Codex Alimentarius Commission’s annual session earlier this month, when the international food safety body voted to adopt draft maximum residue levels for ractopamine in beef and pork.
Since that meeting, President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration has gained more traction with its plan to relax the ban on imports of US beef containing traces of ractopamine.
However, the adoption of the new standard for ractopamine has also made it difficult for the administration to explain why it intends to retain the ban on pork with ractopamine residue but relax the ban on beef.
Chen yesterday said the government would not make the ban on imports of pork containing traces of ractopamine part of the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) because that could constitute non-compliance with WTO rules.
In view of the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, which allows WTO members to establish national health standards for food for health reasons, the government is considering incorporating the dietary habits of Taiwanese into the Act Governing Food Sanitation, Chen said.
Given that Taiwanese buy about 10 times more pork than beef each year, the government is within its rights to conduct a risk assessment as to the dangers involved in consuming pork containing traces of ractopamine residue and banning such imports based on the results of the assessment, Chen said.
Meanwhile, Ma yesterday said that the government and the opposition should establish a united front in addressing the issue and reach a consensus on US beef imports.
“We nailed down the details of the bill on Monday and hope to negotiate the issue with the opposition parties as soon as possible so that a consensus can be reached. This is a national issue, not a problem of any particular political party,” Ma said when meeting with representatives of the World Taiwanese Chambers of Commerce.
The remarks came after he announced on Monday that the government would establish a maximum residue level for ractopamine of 10 parts per billion in US beef products in accordance with the standard ratified at the 35th Codex Alimentarius Commission’s meeting.
The Ma administration finalized the ractopamine maximum residue level on Monday during a meeting between the Presidential Office, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the KMT caucus.
Ma yesterday said that by allowing the import of US beef products under strict conditions, the government expected negotiations on the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with the US to resume, paving the way for the nation to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the near future.