Taiwan will send a second group to inspect US beef industry operations if necessary, following a recent case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as mad cow disease, which occured in California last month, a Council of Agriculture official said yesterday.
The council will not rule out any option, including sending another team to the US this year or possible cooperative inspection trips with Japan and South Korea, Council of Agriculture Deputy Minister Hu Sing-hwa (胡興華) told the legislature a day after a delegation returned from the US saying the country’s beef products are safe to eat.
Several legislators questioned him on the initial findings of the delegation.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Huang Wei-che (黃偉哲) said the team’s conclusion was questionable because their inspection of nine slaughterhouses — which supply 63 percent of Taiwan’s US beef imports — was rushed and tightly controlled by US authorities.
In response, Hu said that aside from the abattoirs, the delegation also checked several ranches, cattle feed manufacturers and carcass processing plants.
Members of the delegation, who had different fields of expertise, pointed out problems on the spot and discussed them with the US authorities, Hu said.
Moreover, the minister added, the delegation asked for a suspension of imports from a Kansas-based slaughterhouse where an oversight in its operational procedure for removing cattle tonsils was discovered.
DPP legislators Chen Ming-wen (陳明文) and Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) questioned the delegation’s decision to announce its conclusions at a press conference upon arrival in Taiwan without detailing findings to the public.
However, Hu said the press conference was intended to deliver an overall report of the 23-day visit to the public.
Some of the details have yet to be discussed with experts, he said.
Gao also asked, should a meeting of experts scheduled for next month find that US beef was unsafe to eat, would it then be possible to ban such imports or recall them.
The council will follow relevant regulations under the Taiwan-US beef protocol, Hu said.
Meanwhile, Watson Sung (宋華聰), who headed the delegation on its US visit, again reassured the public over the safety of US beef at a separate press conference held by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) earlier in the day.
The US Consumer’s Union has not suggested avoiding US beef, Sung said.
Taiwan sends a delegation to inspect US slaughterhouses on a routine annual basis. This year’s trip was pushed forward because of last month’s confirmed case of mad cow disease in California.