American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Stephen Young yesterday said that pork containing ractopamine imported from the US was safe and he was expecting Taiwan's government to use a science-based approach to any decisions concerning future imports of US pork.
"Since the US Food and Drug Administration [FDA] approved the use of ractopamine in the US in 1999, consumers in the US and Taiwan alike have been eating and enjoying US pork produced this way," Young said. "The FDA has a well-deserved reputation for its scientific expertise and has a rigorous approval process before any new veterinary drug is allowed for use in the US."
Young made the remarks in a press release yesterday.
Regarding recent criticism that the AIT has been pressuring Taiwan's government with its advocacy of a science-based approach to the testing and approval of ractopamine, Young said that he understood people's concerns but food safety was also an important issue for the US government.
In addition, Young said that the US government had no intention of taking over Taiwan's pork market to the detriment of local hog farmers' business.
"Our negotiating position on this has always been simply in the interest of lowering trade barriers between the US and Taiwan and maintaining a level playing field for international trade," he said.
Meanwhile, Chinese Nationalist Party presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) criticized the government for having an inconsistent agricultural policy.
Using the ractopamine controversy as an example, Ma said the government had not yet made a final decision about whether to relax restrictions on the use of the drug.
"I cannot understand why [the government] would fail to take care of our farmers," Ma said at a pomelo farm in Yunlin. "Pig farmers are a crucial part of Taiwan's economy."
"The government cannot hesitate now because farmers have started to suffer losses as a result of the fall in pork prices," Ma said.
The government has been heavily criticized since the Department of Health (DOH) and Council of Agriculture revealed last week that they were thinking of relaxing the regulations regarding ractopamine in imported pork but maintaining it for local meat.
Taiwan has banned the use of ractopamine, a drug that promotes the growth of lean meat in pigs and cattle, calling it a health threat. The ban on the hormone covers domestic and imported meat.
Although the Cabinet said on Monday it would not make any changes to the restrictions before it analyzes data, thousands of pig farmers protested in front of DOH, the council and the AIT on Tuesday against the potential change.