The Council of Agriculture (COA) said that it would set limits on residues of the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine in beef if an amendment to loosen restrictions on beef imported from the US is passed in an upcoming supplementary legislative session.
COA Minister Chen Bao-ji (陳保基) said the council will only establish a residue limit for beef and will retain a zero-tolerance policy of the drug in pork, adding that separate permits for imported pork and beef are used in countries and areas such as New Zealand, Australia and Hong Kong.
Addressing the issue of some domestic hog farmers who wish to use the drug to increase growth rates in swine, Chen reiterated the zero-tolerance policy against using the leanness enhancer in pigs, saying that no domestic or imported pork products are allowed to contain ractopamine residues.
He said the government will follow the sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures set out by the WTO and will maintain the ban on ractopamine in imported pork via administrative orders.
The SPS measures are a set of rules that allow WTO member states to apply food safety and animal and plant regulations while ensuring that such regulations are not used as an excuse for protecting domestic products from foreign competition.
Taiwan has been a member of the WTO since 2002.
Meanwhile, opposition party lawmakers said that the government’s policy of “safe tolerance, separation of beef and pork, compulsory labeling and the exclusion of offal” on ractopamine should be clearly stated in domestic laws and not just via administrative orders.
Only when the principles are clearly stated in law can the government have real restraining power on imported US pork and offal containing ractopamine, Taiwan Solidarity Union caucus whip Hsu Chung-hsin (許忠信) said.
If the policy is not stated in law, the next step might be the opening to imports of US pork containing ractopamine and domestic hog farmers using the chemical compound, which would lead to health risks for Taiwanese for whom pork is a staple dish, according to Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇).
In response, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus whip Hsu Yao-chang (徐耀昌) said that Taiwan and the US have reached a consensus on setting different standards for ractopamine in beef and pork and urged the opposition parties to put their differences aside to create greater opportunities for cooperation between Taiwan and the US.
Washington has been pressing Taipei to ease restrictions on US beef, saying it will not resume talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with Taipei unless the restrictions are lifted.
The purpose of the TIFA, established in 1994, is to provide Taipei and Washington with a platform for discussing bilateral economic and trade issues.
TIFA is viewed by some as a precursor to a full-fledged free-trade agreement between the two countries, although Washington has not made any promises in this regard.