A group of investigators will soon be dispatched to the US to clarify questions surrounding a recent case of mad cow disease in California, Department of Health Minister Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) told the legislature yesterday.
Chiu said an annual inspection visit to the US had initially been planned for July, but now the department was planning an earlier visit — with officials from the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and several veterinary specialists — to inspect slaughterhouses in a bid to resolve the problems associated with US beef imports.
Because of wide public concern about imported US beef, lot-by-lot -inspections of US beef imports are being made at borders, which is the strictest inspection measure in the world, Chiu said, adding that inspections focus on specified risk materials (SRMs), such as tonsils and intestines in cattle, and the brain, skull, eyes and spinal cord of cattle over 30 months of age.
Democratic Progressive Party legislators said Taiwan should provisionally ban all beef import from the US until the conditions surrounding the mad cow disease case are clarified.
In response, Chiu said that under the guidelines of the World Organization for Animal Health, banning US beef imports was unnecessary at present.
“Being a governmental executive agency, we are responding according to international norms,” Chiu told the legislature.
“If any problems are found at the border inspection, we will take actions to temporarily ban US beef imports,” Chiu said, adding that risk evaluations and scientific evidence to prove SRMs were found at borders were important in deciding whether a product should be banned.
The department’s report said that of the 633 cattle slaughterhouses in the US, 52 had been authorized to export beef to Taiwan and 35 actually exported beef to Taiwan.
Food and Drug Administration Director-General Kang Jaw-jou (康照洲) said the inspection visit to the US would focus on the larger slaughterhouses first, that it aimed to reach an 80 percent coverage rate this year and that livestock feed would be a key point of investigation.