There is no timetable for the opening of Taiwan’s market to US beef, Department of Health Minister Yeh Ching-chuan (葉金川) said yesterday, although he added that the government was considering its options.
Yeh said that the health department has yet to decide when to lift the ban, but “public sentiment” would be one of the major concerns.
Yeh said that compared with the US, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, is more common in Europe. The department’s policy is to lift the ban on US beef, but officials are still considering the details as the public is still unsure on the safety of US beef.
Yeh made the remarks in response to reporters’ questions after Jason Yuan (袁健生), Taiwan’s representative to the US, confirmed the previous day that a delegation from the US Trade Representative office had met with Taiwanese officials and discussed the issue during a recent visit to Taiwan.
The two sides “engaged in harmonious talks,” Yuan said.
Taiwan has twice imposed a partial ban on US beef after two confirmed cases of BSE were discovered in the US in 2005. Currently, only bone-free beef from cattle aged less than 30 months is allowed for sale in Taiwan.
Meanwhile, Harry Tseng (曾厚仁), head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of North American Affairs, also expressed optimism over the timescale for opening the market to US beef imports.
Asked about the risk of consuming US beef, Yeh said that the average lifetime risk of contracting BSE through eating boneless beef is one in 7.18 trillion — equivalent to the risk of being struck by lightning twice.
However, Yeh said that despite the minimal risks, some people were still hesitant to eat beef out of health concerns.
Over the past three years, US beef imports have increased year-on-year. The US supplies 32 percent of the nation’s beef, with the rest coming mainly from New Zealand and Australia.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JIMMY CHUANG