A report by a Taiwanese delegation that conducted field inspections of beef-related facilities in the US has concluded that beef from the US “should be safe.”
The report said that precautionary measures in the US on mad-cow disease meet both US and World Organisation for Animal Health regulations. They also meet the standards of Taiwan’s regulations on food safety and of the Protocol of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)-Related Measures for the Importation of Beef and Beef Products for Human Consumption from the Territory of the Authorities Represented by the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT).
“The imported beef should be safe,” said the report, which was released on the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine’s Web site on Monday.
However, the report did not fully endorse the safety of US beef because the US has yet to provide an epidemic report on its most recent case of mad-cow disease as well as an oversight the delegation found at a Kansas slaughterhouse in its handling of cattle tonsils.
The conclusion came after the delegation’s 23-day visit to slaughterhouses, cattle farms, feed producers and laboratories across seven US states last month. The government sent the delegation, consisting of officials from the Council of Agriculture, the Department of Health (DOH) and the Ministry of Economic Affairs, after a BSE case in California was reported in April, the fourth in the US since 2003.
However, during its inspection tour, the delegation found an oversight at one Kansas slaughterhouse in its operational procedures for removing cattle tonsils. The bureau said the AIT issued an explanation letter about the issue after the US authorities made an immediate response to the oversight, and on May 25, shipments to Taiwan of beef processed at the slaughterhouse were stopped.
In the letter, the AIT said the slaughterhouse workers who made the mistakes had been fired and that the factory plans to strengthen its training of employees. It also noted that beef processed at the slaughterhouse afterward was examined and found to be safe.
Nevertheless, the DOH remained concerned, as the letter did not offer any scientific data that the department was prepared to accept as credible, the bureau said.
The DOH has demanded that US authorities file a formal report to detail the examination procedures and their results. Taiwan will decide whether to resume beef imports from that particular slaughterhouse based on the formal report, the bureau said.
In related news, Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) yesterday drew an analogy between cigarettes and alcohol and US beef, saying that although cigarettes and alcohol are harmful to human health, there still exists trade in tobacco and spirits among countries, and, as such, people can decide on their own whether to smoke or drink.
Taiwan Solidarity Union Secretary-General Lin Chih-chia (林志嘉) criticized Wu for making what he said was a ridiculous analogy.
“Is the government going to have a health tax levied on US beef as it does with the cigarettes?” he asked.
Additional reporting by Tseng Wei-chen