Taiwan is to allow bone-in beef products from cattle under 30 months of age to be imported from Canada as soon as next month, but cattle skulls, eyes, brains, spinal cords and ground meat remain banned to minimize the risks of bovine spongiform encephalopathy — also known as mad cow disease — the Ministry of Economic Affairs said.
Consumers and local meat product suppliers do not have to worry about food security or any adverse impacts from the Canadian beef, because the government will adopt strict measures to regulate the imports, Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Francis Liang (梁國新) told a press conference yesterday.
Currently, only boneless beef from cattle under 30 months of age is allowed to be imported from Canada, the ministry said.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) deputy director-general Chiang Yu-mei (姜郁美) yesterday said Canada, like the US, remains “a controlled risk country” according to the World Organization for Animal Health’s categorization, because of incidences of mad cow disease in the country.
However, after conducting field work and meeting with experts, the administration found that the chances of becoming infected with the new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease — mad cow disease — by eating Canadian beef products is 1.22 out of 100 billion, representing an infection probability of “close to zero.”
As a result, the government decided to set the same conditions for Canadian beef imports as for US beef, Chiang said, adding that only bone-in beef from cattle under 30 months of age and beef offal such as lips, ears, back straps and abdominal diaphragms will be allowed to be imported.
Citing research conducted by the FDA, Chiang said local meat suppliers’ home market share was only 6 percent in 2012, while Australian beef products had a 46 percent market share, followed by US beef products at 24.76 percent, New Zealand beef products at 23 percent and Canadian beef products at 0.3 percent.
“It is not possible for Canadian beef product imports to harm the local meat industry, given that most of the beef products consumed by Taiwanese are imported and not made locally,” Huang Kuo-ching (黃國青), head of the Council of Agriculture’s Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine, said at the conference.
Huang said he thinks the complementary effect between Canadian and Taiwanese beef products would be limited, because imported beef products are mainly frozen and purchased by Western-style restaurants, while local beef products are purchased by smaller vendors for instant cooking.
In terms of trade, the ministry said opening Taiwan’s market to Canadian bone-in beef can help the country move closer to signing a bilateral investment agreement (BIA) with Canada.
Liang said the government is set to sign an avoidance of double taxation agreement (ADTA) with Canada by the end of the first half of the year.
Once the ADTA is inked, the government can initiate talks between Taiwan and Canada on signing the BIA, which is expected to help create the opportunity for the nation to join more regional economic blocs, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as soon as possible, he added.
The Canadian Trade Office in Taipei welcomed the announcement.
“This announcement reflects the strong economic ties between Taiwan and Canada, and demonstrates clearly Taiwan’s desire to further liberalize their economy and further integrate into the broader regional and global economy,” the office said.