A government-initiated policy briefing on Friday on the proposed relaxation of the ban on imports of US beef containing the feed additive ractopamine was met with unanimous support for the policy, while the single participant who expressed opposition was booed.
The event, one of a series of 22 briefings to be held in every city and county that began last weekend, was held in Wanfang Hospital in Taipei and attracted an audience of 400 people.
At the 30-minute question-and-answer session, a man asked the panel of officials whether the government already had countermeasures in place should the US demand that Taiwan apply its planned food standards to pork as well beef and also to open the door to US beef offal.
“It seemed the US demanded not only that a maximum residue level be set for beef, but that some US senators were also talking about pork. The policy’s exclusion of beef offal imports is also at odds with the US’ wishes. How do you plan to deal with that?” the man asked.
The man continued, but an audience member interrupted him and told him to keep his question short. Many others followed suit, complaining about his remarks. However, the audience gave a warm round of applause and cheered seven other people who expressed views supporting the government’s plan.
The question was ignored by officials, including Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang (施顏祥), Department of Health Vice Minister Lai Chin-hsiang (賴進祥) and Food and Drug Administration Director-General Kang Jaw-jou (康照洲).
Kang, who presided over the session, said the ministry, which is in charge of trade negotiations with the US, “will deal with the issue with caution.”
One member of the audience said he was very satisfied with the policy briefing.
“This event deserved a score of 96.5 out of 100. It did not get full marks partly because it would have been more convincing had there been US Food and Drug Administration [FDA] officials present. Ractopamine is an animal drug approved by the FDA and I believe their food standards are beyond reproach,” he said.
Speaking passionately, another man called on everyone in the audience to support the government’s policy.
“US beef is the best quality beef in the world, but its reputation has been slandered by rumors spread by the Democratic Progressive Party and the Talking Show (大話新聞),” a political talk show program on SET-TV, he said.
“We have to destroy the Talking Show,” he shouted.
The audience and the panel of officials responded with enthusiastic applause.
When asked about who had been invited to the briefing, Lin Hsueh-ju (林雪如), head of the Center for Consumer Protection and Public Relations of the Food and Drug Administration, who organized the event, said attendees were notified of the briefing mainly by borough wardens, district administrators and leaders of civic organizations.
At a previous briefing lasting two hours, Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) had said the problem of deciding which food products to buy or to eat is “a matter of freedom of choice.”
“Animals sometimes get sick and need to be treated with antibiotics. As long as the residual concentration is within a certain level, it is safe to eat. You can either choose to eat pork from sick pigs not treated with antibiotics or choose pork from healthy pigs treated with antibiotics,” he said, adding that the government’s responsibility was to ensure that all products on the market are safe for human consumption.