A Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker yesterday questioned Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspection reports on Canadian slaughterhouses that export beef products to Taiwan, saying the safety of imported Canadian beef is in doubt. The agency rejected the accusation.
The agency said the decision to open Taiwan’s market to Canadian beef was made after a rigorous inspection and assessment process.
DPP Legislator Liu Chien-kuo (劉建國) told a press conference in Taipei that while the agency said it has conducted four on-site inspections at Canadian slaughterhouses since 2004 — the latest in 2012 — the reports’ lack of substance raises questions about their credibility.
“Other than the 2012 visit, the so-called inspection reports on the FDA Web site are nothing but translations of Canadian policies and regulations on its beef products,” Liu said.
The 2102 report, the only one to detail inspection results, showed the inspectors had reservations about the exporting slaughterhouses, Liu said.
One of the four slaughterhouses had been found by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in 2012 to have products that were contaminated by E coli (O157:H7) bacteria. That slaughterhouse later had its license suspended because of its inadequate follow-up measures to the Canadian inspection.
The same report said another of the slaughterhouses produced processed meat that included beef from cows less than 20 months of age imported from Australia.
The report shows that “although the processed product is only sold in Canada and is irrelevant to the risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy [BSE], it [the slaughterhouse] is suspected of misleading Canadian consumers,” Liu said.
“Were these problems simple mistakes? Were they immediately rectifiable? The reports on Canadian beef import indicate that our authorities have continued to allow the import of beef products from these slaughterhouses despite the problems,” Liu said.
FDA official Fang Shao-wei (方紹威) told the press conference that the slaughterhouse that had E coli-tainted products later supplied documentation on its corrective measures and improvements.
“After its operations were suspended by Canadian authorities, we did not import any of its beef products between February 2012 and May 2013,” Fang said.
As for the exporter whose processed beef products included Australian beef, Fang said that Taiwan’s market is not open to ground beef from Canada, so that problem does not pose a risk to Taiwanese consumers.
“It is not true to say the inspection reports were simply translations and that the health authorities have allowed the import of Canadian beef despite health risks,” the FDA said in a statement.
A total of four on-site inspections were conducted and eight consultation meetings held with BSE experts before the final decision to allow Canadian bone-in beef imports was made last month, the agency said in the statement.
“While carrying out the inspections, questions that were asked were answered on the spot by the slaughterhouses or later answered with documentation. The reports were all reviewed and accepted by the experts at the meetings,” it said.
The government has allowed the import of Canadian boneless beef products since 2007, while its bone-in beef products were given clearance last month.