The Control Yuan yesterday censured the Department of Health (DOH) for having failed to inspect US beef for drugs that promote lean meat prior to this year.
Censure is a first step that paves the way for disciplinary action, in which an official can be demoted or suspended from their duties.
Control Yuan member Cheng Jen-hung (程仁宏) told a press briefing that the DOH had not carried out its promise to take stringent measures to prevent US beef containing lean-meat-enhancing drugs from hitting local market shelves.
A Control Yuan investigation found that the DOH did not conduct any inspections on US beef imports at customs prior to this year, when the beef issue became the focus of a trade dispute between Taiwan and the US.
Only when the government began inspections at local markets in January did it find 11 samples of US beef — among 77 imported beef products — that tested positive for the banned drugs, Cheng said.
“This shows that customs inspections failed for beef imports,” he said.
The Control Yuan also censured the Council of Agriculture for carrying out few inspections on drug residues in local meat products and for its failure to trace the origin of these drugs.
The Control Yuan’s move comes at a time when the government is considering whether to ease a ban on imports of US beef containing lean-meat-enhancing drugs.
Officials have indicated that they are waiting for a WHO decision in July on these drugs before considering any policy revisions.
Based on this incident of negligence by the department, Cheng expressed concern that if these products were allowed, the government might not be able to prevent meat containing excessive levels of the controversial drugs from coming in.
He also urged the government not to bow to “pressure from some countries” on the beef dispute, saying Taiwanese have different eating habits.
For instance, Taiwanese eat internal organs, in which the drugs’ toxicity is especially high, Cheng said.