Sat, Aug 11, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Pig farmers' associations protest talk of scrapping ban on additive ractopamine

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Representatives from pig farmers' associations protested outside the Department of Health (DOH) yesterday, demanding that the department stand firm on the ban against ractopamine.

Ractopamine, the feed additive marketed under the trade name Paylean, is banned by the Council of Agriculture. The additive is, however, legal in the US and other countries.

Cheng Huei-wen (鄭慧文), the director of the department's Bureau of Food Sanitation, told reporters last Saturday that ractopamine is not harmful to consumers at low levels. The department will discuss with the council the possibility of creating a legal limit for ractopamine content in meat, set at 10 parts per billion (ppb).

The representatives, including the directors of five regional pig farmers' associations and two deputy directors of the Republic of China Swine Association (ROCSA) asked the department not to lift the ban on ractopamine.

The bureau of food sanitation deputy director, Hsieh Ting-hung (謝定宏), responded by saying that the department would continue to enforce the ban as long as it is in place.

Two shipments of US pork caused widespread concern when they tested positive for ractopamine, a beta-agonist drug used to cause livestock to gain lean weight quickly. Although both shipments were rejected by customs, the incident sparked concern that previous, untested shipments of US pork may have entered the local market.

Subsequent stepped up testing of locally produced pork revealed ractopamine residue in three out of 43 samples.

Yang Ju-men (楊儒門), dubbed the "rice bomber" by media, attended the protest in solidarity with the hog farmers. Yang, sentenced in 2005 to seven-and-a-half years in prison for planting 17 explosive devices in public areas around Taipei over a one-year period, was released on June 21 on a pardon from President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). Yang had planted the devices as a protest against the government's rice import policy and its effects on local farmers.

Deputy director of ROCSA Yang Guan-chang (楊冠章) said the fact that local farmers were illegally using ractopamine was no reason to end the ban.

"We think those who violated the ban should be punished," Yang said. "The fact that they broke the law is no reason to change it."

Local and national pig farmers' associations support the ban 100 percent, she said.

"We have been contacted repeatedly by representatives of Eli Lilly, who wanted our support for Paylean," Yang said. "However, they could not give us a satisfactory answer on two key points -- the high level of ractopamine residue in organ meats and the difficulty of differentiating the substance from other, more dangerous beta-agonists."

According to Yang Chen-chang (楊振昌), a toxicologist at Taipei Veterans General Hospital, ractopamine is quickly metabolized by a pig, but higher levels of the substance can accumulate in its organs and fatty tissues.

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