Tue, Aug 21, 2007 - Page 3 News List

No change on ractopamine: Cabinet

By Jimmy Chuang and Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

People's First Party (PFP) Legislator Ko Shu-ming asks Cheng Hui-wen, director of the Bureau of Food Safety, if he would dare eat rice with spare ribs yesterday. The PFP legislative caucus held a press conference to explain their opposition to legalizing the feed additive ractopamine.

PHOTO: CNA

The Cabinet yesterday announced that it has no intention to make any changes to regulations concerning the usage of the veterinary drug ractopamine at the moment.

"We will not do anything before we finish discussing with related professional personnel and analyzing all the data we have collected," said Cabinet Spokesman Shieh Jhy-wey (謝志偉). "No matter what we do, public health and pig farmers' rights will always be our concern."

Shieh made his remarks during a press conference at the Government Information Office yesterday morning.

In addition to the announcement, Shieh also said that officials from the Council of Agriculture (COA) are planning to meet with local pig farmers today to understand their concerns and let them know what the government has been doing regarding the issue.

Shieh mentioned that related WHO regulations will be important references for the government in establishing future policies on the usage of the drug.

"As far as I am concerned, the WHO is now working on a review and re-evaluation on the issue and the results will be available in September. That will become an important reference for us for sure," Shieh said.

Meanwhile, several Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators put forth a legislative proposal yesterday, urging the government not to relax restrictions on the drug's use.

At a joint press conference, DPP Legislator Wu Ming-ming (吳明敏) said people's health would be influenced if the government allows pork imports with ractopamine because it is difficult for people to differentiate between local and imported pork.

"Taiwan cannot allow two different regulations of ractopamine," DPP Legislator Yen Wen-chang (顏文章) said. "It would be unfair to Taiwan's pig farmers if US pork with ractopamine were allowed to be imported to Taiwan."

DPP Legislator Chen Hsien-chung (陳憲中), who initiated the proposal, urged the government to defend the "character of the nation."

"The government should not lift the ban just because there was pressure from other countries," he said. "In terms of many issues, we have to defend our dignity."

At a separate event, the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) caucus criticized the DPP government's policy as "US-oriented" only.

TSU Legislator Yin Ling-ying (尹伶瑛) said the government's policy on ractopamine had discriminated against local pig farmers while favoring US pig farmers.

"The government said it had used Japan's policy as reference while planning new regulation on ractopamine, but it failed to notice that Taiwanese people have different diet habits from Japanese people," TSU caucus whip Tseng Tsahn-deng (曾燦燈) said.

Also yesterday, the Consumers' Foundation urged Taiwan consumers to boycott US pork.

At a news conference held over the government's about-face on the policy on the use of ractopamine in pigs and cattle, foundation officials called for consumers to reject imported US pork and fast food that might also use ractopamine-contaminated US pork.

Foundation secretary-general You Kai-hsiung (游開雄) criticized the government for having succumbed to US pressure by lifting its ban on ractopamine, which the COA banned last October after cases were reported abroad concerning the effect of the drug on consumer health.

Citing seven cases related to ractopamine poisoning reported in Hong Kong and the Chinese province of Guangdong between 1997 and last year, You said more than 100 people in the two areas developed symptoms, including racing heartbeat, dizziness, difficulty breathing, headache, muscle cramp, vomiting, diarrhea and high blood pressure, after consuming pork containing ractopamine.

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