The legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee yesterday passed a motion demanding that the incoming Cabinet prohibit imports of US pork with ractopamine.
At the center of the committee meeting’s discussion was the issue of US pork after agriculture minister-designate Tsao Chi-hung (曹啟鴻) earlier this month said that Taiwan would be unable to stop imports of US pork containing ractopamine amid the nation’s push to join the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
In a report to the committee, the Council of Agriculture (COA) yesterday said that allowing imports of US pork containing the feed additive ractopamine would cause about NT$14.3 billion (US$442.99 million) in losses a year to pork-related industries.
Photo: Fang Pin-chao, Taipei Times
“There are about 5.5 million pigs bred by more than 8,000 farmers in Taiwan. Pork ranks No. 1 among all agricultural products,” COA Deputy Minister Huang Kwo-ching (黃國青) said. “The nation’s pork self-sufficiency rate is 91.1 percent, with an estimated total economic output of NT$71.74 billion per year.”
Allowing ractopamine in pig feed would greatly affect the pig-breeding industry because farmers would not have to put so much effort into choosing and rearing the best breeding pigs, he said, adding that cheap imported internal organs might replace domestic ones because the demand for internal organs is higher in Taiwan, but ractopamine residue levels are higher in internal organs.
The pork product manufacturing industry, animal feed industry and pork prices would also be affected, he said. Prices are stable, but imported pork with ractopamine is expected to be cheaper than domestic pork by 10 percent, he said.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chiang Been-huang (蔣丙煌) said the nation only allowed imports of US beef with less than 10 parts per billion of ractopamine residue in 2012. The ministry has not set a maximum allowable level, nor conducted studies on the health effects of eating pork with ractopamine.
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Director Guo Yue-liang (郭育良) said a study by the institute showed that different levels of seven types of leanness-enhancing agents were found in urine samples collected from 2005 to 2008 — with 4.67 percent containing salbutamol and 1.67 percent ractopamine.
Guo said that while the average beef consumption in Taiwan is 147g per adult per day, the average exposure to ractopamine is exetremely low — less than the acceptable daily intake of up to 1 microgram per kilogram of body weight recommended by the Codex Alimentarius Commission — and poses little health risk.
Citing statistics from various studies and reports, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Wu Kun-yuh (吳焜裕) said that while imports of pork with ractopamine have not been allowed, the government should work harder to control the use of cottonseed meal and gossypol in pig feed, and antibiotics overuse, which can be associated with male infertility.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安) said that Japan and South Korea allow US pork imports, but statistics showed that they, on average, consume much less pork than Taiwanese, and that people who often eat out or children who eat school lunches might be exposed to pork with ractopamine if the government allows US pork imports.
DPP Legislator Liu Chien-kuo (劉建國) said information provided by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was misleading when it said that only seven among the total 2,416 batches of US beef imported since 2012 had failed border inspections for ractopamine residue — a 0.29 percent failure rate — because only 148 batches were inspected.
FDA Director-General Chiang Yu-mei (姜郁美) said that the statistic was incorrect, and said the correct failure rate is 4.7 percent.
Separately yesterday, KMT Taipei City Councilor Wang Hsin-yi (王欣儀) said the KMT’s city caucus would propose to amend the Taipei city food safety autonomous regulations, barring pork with ractopamine from being sold in the city.
At the Changhua County Council yesterday, County Commissioner Wei Ming-ku (魏明谷) also said that he is against the import of pork containing ractopamine traces.
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