Pig farmers yesterday accused the Department of Health (DOH) of planning to loosen restrictions on ractopamine content in pork to open up the country to more imports of US pork. The farmers said they would very likely stage protests soon.
Ractopamine, a feed additive marketed under the trade name Paylean, is banned by the Council of Agriculture. The additive is, however, legal in the US and many other countries.
At a public hearing held by representatives of regional pig farmer associations yesterday, speakers urged the government to apply the strictest standards on the legal limits of toxic chemicals in pork.
Last month, the DOH announced a draft amendment to the Method of Test for Veterinary Drug Residues in Foods (食品中動物用藥殘留量檢驗方法) that would allow for 0.3 parts per million (ppm) of ractopamine to be present in muscle tissue and 0.5ppm in organ tissue, said Pan Lien-chou (潘連周), president of the Swine Association.
Over-consumption of ractopamine can result in cardiovascular diseases, including increased heart rate and blood pressure, said Lin Ja-liang (林杰樑), director of clinical toxicology at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital.
Pan accused the DOH of raising permissible levels of the chemical in order to allow more pork to be imported from the US.
“We want ‘zero detection,’ no matter what kind of testing instrument is used,” said Pan, adding that he was suspicious about the reasoning behind the change to the current regulations.
Pan said that he and other pig farmers would “very likely” take to the streets in protest because they felt the government “has not listened to us.”
In response, DOH Minister Yeh Ching-chuan (葉金川) said that the department’s stance on the issue remained the same.
The proposed amendment was not a loosening of restrictions, but was only meant to add Paylean to the list stipulating drug residue limits for foods, Yeh said.
Pig farmers marched in protest and threw eggs at the DOH building last year after two shipments of US pork caused widespread concern when they tested positive for ractopamine.
The pig farmers said the government had double standards, with ractopamine prohibited in locally produced pork but permitted in low levels in imported pork.
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