Department of Health (DOH) Minister Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) yesterday denied reports that the department had arbitrarily set a maximum permissible level for the livestock feed additive ractopamine in beef imports, saying officials had only discussed the acceptable daily intake rather than set a maximum residue level (MRL).
On Sunday, the Consumers’ Foundation told a press conference that specialists assembled by the department on April 11 secretly set the acceptable daily intake level of ractopamine in animal feed at 1 microgram per kilogram of body weight per day, even though the substance remains an illegal additive and its long-term effects on humans are still unknown.
Hsu Li-min (許立民), a doctor at National Taiwan University Hospital’s division of traumatology who attended the Council of Agriculture’s third technical advisory committee meeting on ractopamine residues last month, said the department’s meeting of specialists had referenced the results of two flawed clinical trials.
Su Wei-shuo (蘇偉碩), a clinical psychiatrist who also attended the meeting, said food safety should not use acute toxicity as its only criterium when evaluating risk, but should consider the severity of possible long-term poisoning and its effect on sensitive groups such as babies under 18 months, children and people with cardiovascular, liver or kidney disease.
The foundation called on the government to maintain its -existing zero-tolerance policy on -ractopamine until safety issues have been clarified.
Chiu told the legislature the April 11 meeting was a routine gathering held by the Food and Drug Administration on, where acceptable daily intake was discussed.
“This is relevant to health issues, which is in accordance with the legislature’s resolution and should not be considered something secretive or underhanded,” he said.
Food and Drug Administration Director-General Kang Jaw-jou (康照洲) said the acceptable daily intake level was discussed by 17 specialists and would become a reference for setting standards in the future, but so far had no legal validity.
Deliberations on amendments to the Act Governing Food -Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) had been scheduled to start yesterday at a meeting of the legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee. However, the meeting was delayed until tomorrow at the insistence of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which wants the amendments to be reviewed together with the version of the bill proposed by the Executive Yuan, which will be submitted on the same day.
Deliberation on amendments to the act, which includes articles determining whether the ban on ractopamine should be lifted, began with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the DPP disagreeing over the agenda.
DPP legislators strongly opposed reviewing the proposals made by 18 legislators without seeing the Executive Yuan’s version, which they insisted should be reviewed at the same time.
The committee convener, KMT Legislator Tsai Chin-lung (蔡錦隆) said that as the deadline for the Executive Yuan’s proposed bill was today, it could not be evaluated along with the other versions yesterday.
DPP caucus director-general Pan Men-an (潘孟安) said that without the Executive Yuan’s version any review would be akin to blind people describing an elephant by touch.
“As we signed on for consultative discussion between political parties, we insist on waiting for the Executive Yuan’s version,” he said.