In view of the latest vote by the Codex Alimentarius Commission on the safety of permissible levels of the livestock feed additive ractopamine in meat, the Consumers’ Foundation, which previously supported a zero-tolerance policy, yesterday urged the government to strictly enforce its set of guidelines to safeguard the public’s health.
The meeting of the commission, a UN food standards-setting body, held in Rome this week, on Thursday voted 69-67 that it was safe to allow certain levels of ractopamine in beef and pork — 10 parts per billion (ppb) in muscle and fat for pork and beef, 40ppb in pig and cattle livers, and 90ppb in pig and cattle kidneys
As a result, the Executive Yuan’s proposed amendment to the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) to relax an import ban on beef with ractopamine residue is likely to be passed at the legislature, foundation chairperson Joann Su (蘇錦霞) said yesterday.
In light of that, Su said the government should take the general eating habits of Taiwanese into consideration, adding that pork is the most consumed meat in Taiwan and internal organs are common in the Taiwanese diet, so the government should set specific limits to adapt its law to these facts, instead of simply adopting the commission’s recommended residue levels for livers and kidneys.
Clinical psychiatrist Su Wei-shuo (蘇偉碩) said that after years of scientific and political stalemate, the commission’s decision was passed by only two votes, indicating that many people still have concerns about the effects of ractopamine residue on human health.
Moreover, Su Wei-shuo, citing Executive Yuan spokesperson Hu Yu-wei’s (胡幼偉) remarks late last month saying the commission’s debate was a trade war behind the food safety issue, said the maximum residue limit set by the commission was the result of a political struggle and cannot guarantee the safety of consumers, especially people with more vulnerable health conditions.
The foundation yesterday urged the government to strictly enforce the set of guidelines it announced in early March as its principle for allowing partial imports of beef containing ractopamine residue — including a safe level of ractopamine in beef, separating permits for the import of beef and pork, clear labeling on beef imports and excluding imports of internal organs.
“I highly doubt the government can actually enforce the clear labeling of beef imports, because there were already many cases of meat found with ractopamine residue in the market when the law banned its usage,” Foundation vice chairman Mark Chang (張智剛) said.
The group also urged the government to establish a foundation from a surcharge on sellers of ractopamine residue-containing meat that would compensate consumers if they are diagnosed with health problems related to eating meat containing ractopamine residue.
Su Wei-shuo said the health effects of ractopamine on humans may not be acute, but chronic, leading to health problem after accumulating too much of the substance after many years, so it would be difficult for consumers to establish evidence of their condition’s relation to ractopamine.
Chang said the foundation was raising a fund to purchase equipment for precise detection of ractopamine residue in meat, to monitor the government and help safeguard the public’s health.
In the meanwhile, the foundation also provides rapid ractopamine testers, which can only detect whether the meat contains ractopamine residue or not, for consumers to purchase and test by themselves if they doubt the safety of meat bought in the market, he said.