Taipei City’s Department of Health yesterday confiscated 360kg of beef from May Full Fine Food (美福公司) after meat it sold to a major restaurant chain was found to contain the cattle feed additive zilpaterol.
The restaurant chain, Wowprime Corp’s (王品集團) Yuanshao BBQ (原燒燒肉), has returned 263kg of beef to the importer after meat sold in its Taoyuan branch was found to contain zilpaterol residue.
The department also confiscated 83kg of beef in the company’s storage room and said it would destroy the meat after the administrative procedures are completed.
Health department Chief Secretary Chiang Yu-mei (姜郁美) said zilpaterol is more toxic than the feed additive ractopamine.
According to local regulations, the maximum allowable level of ractopamine residue in beef is 10 parts per billion (ppb), while zilpaterol is completely banned.
More than 100kg of beef sold to Yuanshao BBQ has been consumed by patrons and the restaurant is offering a total refund to affected customers.
While May Full Fine Food said tests run by the laboratory it works with found no Zilpaterol in its imports, Chiang said the department will use the official test result to fine the firm for violating the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法).
According to the act, the company can be fined between NT$60,000 (US$2,039) and NT$15 million.
Lawmakers yesterday asked the central government to impose a ban on US beef.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Hsueh Ling (薛凌) raised the issue with Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) during a question-and-answer session at the legislature.
“In September this year, zilpaterol was detected in US beef products being marketed in South Korea. Right after that, the South Korean government said ‘No’ to US and they suspended imports of US beef,” Hsueh said.
“Given our situation today, I now ask Jiang if he will make the promise to refuse US beef, right here in our nation’s legislature?” she said.
Jiang told Hsueh that Taiwan only allows the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine in US beef with a residue cap of 10ppb, while prohibiting any beef product containing zilpaterol.
Zilpaterol improves weight gain and enhances livestock’s metabolic efficiency in converting feed to muscle.
Hsueh denounced the government for failures in the food inspection system.
“Zilpaterol is more toxic than ractopamine. Its harms the cardiovascular system, and is very toxic to the reproductive organs in high doses,” she said. “The safety and lives of Taiwanese are being endangered, we are like the white mice used for testing in laboratory experiments.”
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) asked Jiang to clarify the incident in light of the “three management and five checkpoints” implemented last year in response to the ractopamine controversy.
“Now we have found US beef containing zilpaterol, which is totally banned in Taiwan. Does this not show major problems with the government’s inspections?” he said.
Jiang said that random testing is done by the customs agency so that 5 percent to 10 percent of imports are sampled.
“If a company has always passed the random testing, then this proportion is maintained. If a company does not pass, then a higher percentage will be imposed for inspection,” he said.
Chiang said the government must conduct a thorough review and enact new measures.
“Changes must be made to regulate and manage the upstream suppliers and throughout the supply chain,” he said.
“Government agencies have not done the inspections properly, and the ‘seals’ of approval for food safety, such as GMP [Good Manufacturing Practice], have been issued to companies without rigorous monitoring. We also have the problem of violators getting off too easily with light penalties. All this must be re-examined and changes made. It is time to establish a new comprehensive management system,” he said.
Jiang said the Executive Yuan has set up a task force on food safety checks.