US beef ribs sold at two hypermarkets in Taipei were pulled off shelves after they were found to contain residue of the lean-meat-enhancing drug ractopamine, which is banned in Taiwan, the city’s health department said yesterday.
The contaminated goods were detected at the Neihu (內湖) branches of RT-Mart and Carrefour.
The samples tested had 2.9 parts per billon (ppb) and 1.8ppb of ractopamine respectively, officials said.
Both meat products were supplied by a food importer in New Taipei City (新北市), they said.
New Taipei City health authorities have been asked to help recall and destroy other contaminated meat products from the importer, which could be fined up to NT$6 million (US$203,000) for violating the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法).
Ractopamine is banned in Taiwan, China, the EU and more than 100 other countries, but 20 countries still allow its presence in feed.
The US has been pressuring Taiwan to change its zero-tolerance policy on ractopamine by delaying the resumption of bilateral talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement.
Amid speculation that the government might ease its ractopamine ban as a result of US pressure, local cattle and pig farmers and the Consumers’ Foundation have threatened to stage a protest in Taipei later this month.
The Department of Health said yesterday that the ban on ractopamine remains in place and that the department would deal with substandard beef products in accordance with the law.
While local health officials will continue to test meat products sold in markets on a regular basis, the department will also strengthen customs inspections, said Tsai Shu-chen (蔡淑貞), head of the Food and Drug Administration’s food safety division.
The human body can tolerate and process moderate amounts of ractopamine residue in meat. However, large doses of the drug can cause adverse effects such as nausea, muscle tremors, increased blood pressure and increased heart rate, according to health experts.
The UN Codex Alimentarius Commission had considered adopting a maximum residue level of 10ppb for ractopamine, but later decided to delay the adoption.