Sat, Mar 03, 2018 - Page 3 News List

No timetable to lift bans on Japanese food, US pork: Lai

Staff writer, with CNA

The government has no timetable for allowing imports of US pork containing ractopamine or Japanese food products from five prefectures near the site of a nuclear meltdown, Premier William Lai (賴清德) said yesterday.

“Safety is the highest principle and standard for the government when considering whether to approve the entry of foreign food products,” Lai said in response to questions from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lee Yen-hsiu (李彥秀) during a question-and-answer session at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.

“The government will not permit the entry of harmful food products from other nations at the cost of the Taiwanese public’s health,” he added.

Lai was referring to the ban on imports of US pork containing the leanness-enhancing feed additive ractopamine that has been in place since 2006 and food products from Japan’s Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba prefectures, which remain banned by the government following the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster caused by a massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan on March 11, 2011.

The issue of food safety returned to the public eye again after Washington reiterated in the Office of the US Trade Representative’s 2018 Trade Policy Agenda and 2017 Annual Report that the ban on US pork remains an obstacle to the signing of a free-trade agreement with Taipei.

Taipei has also been under pressure from Tokyo, which has demanded that Taiwan open its market to food imports from the five prefectures.

In late January, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said the government might review its ban on food imports from the five prefectures, in line with global practices.

“It is time to reassess Taiwan’s policy on Japanese food imports, and the government might follow the US and adopt risk-based restrictions instead of the current ban, which is based on region,” Chen said.

Several days prior to Chen’s remarks, Representative to Japan Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) said he fears that Taiwan’s ban on Japanese food imports could affect Taiwan’s efforts to take part in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership led by Japan.

KMT Vice Chairman Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) early last month said he plans to revive a referendum drive he initiated in 2016 to continue the nation’s ban on Japanese food products that might have been contaminated by radiation.

The referendum drive, initiated in December 2016 by a civil alliance on food safety established by Hau, had collected 110,000 signatures, far greater than the revised threshold of 1,800 to initiate national and regional referendums, Hau’s office said, adding that it was shelved after then-premier Lin Chuan (林全) early last year pledged that the ban would not be relaxed.

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