More than 70 pork importers — about 80 percent of the nation’s pork importing companies — yesterday announced that they would not import pork with traces of ractopamine, in a move welcomed by the government.
The importers at a news conference in Taipei said that they would also make their own “ractopamine-free” labels for their imports after obtaining ractopamine-free certificates from pork exporters.
Hua Han Frozen Food Co Ltd (華漢冷凍食品) manager Lee Chun-lai (李春來) told the news conference that the companies would only import ractopamine-free pork and pork products, so consumers could rest easy.
Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times
Since the government had not discussed the matter with importers, they decided to call the news conference and issue a statement in an attempt to assure consumers of the safety of their products.
“If we did nothing, we would lose business, as our pork processing plants and food vendors would refuse to buy from us anymore,” Lee said.
His company’s sales have dropped more than 20 percent due to the ractopamine controversy and that is finding it difficult to stay afloat, he said.
“We are barely surviving,” he added.
The importers’ statement was a “win-win-win scenario” for consumers, hog farmers and pork importers, Council of Agriculture Deputy Minister Huang Chin-cheng (黃金城) told reporters when asked for comment.
From a business standpoint, importing pork with traces of ractopamine — while maintaining a policy that only the country of origin of the pork would be shown on the packaging — would harm sales, he said.
Republic of China Swine Association chairman Yang Chieh (楊杰) told the Central News Agency in a telephone interview that consumers could stop buying pork if they are against pork with traces of ractopamine and felt that the packaging labels were unclear.
However, yesterday’s statement from the importers would go a long way toward stabilizing the nation’s pork market, Yang added.
The Executive Yuan welcomes and respects the importers’ decision, Executive Yuan Secretary-General Li Meng-yen (李孟諺) said.
Labeling the country of origin of imported pork is an international practice, but there is no legislation in the world that mandates the labeling of ractopamine-free products, so the government has no legal authority to require importers to provide ractopamine-free labels for imported pork, he said.
However, Li denied a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) allegation that the government was trying to silence protesting importers by conducting inspections only at certain factories.
Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) on Tuesday told lawmakers — in response to questions from KMT Legislator Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安) — that Pingtung County-based Sings Kout Trading Co (信功肉品) supported the government’s decision to import pork with traces of ractopamine, leading the company to issue a statement later in the day that it does not support the import of pork containing ractopamine residue.
The statement was aimed to reassuring its clients, not to embarrass Su or endorse a political cause, the company added.
Sings Kout the next day was visited by an inspection team from the Pingtung County Fire Department, while the county’s Bureau of Labor Affairs also called to clarify some issues, leading the KMT to suspect the inspection and call were in retaliation for the company’s statement.
Sings Kout on Friday last week had requested the inspection and had arranged the date of the visit, Li said.
Most of Taiwan’s imports of pork and pork products come from Canada, followed by Spain, the US (without ractopamine residue) and Denmark, government data showed.
The nation last year imported 11,058 tonnes of pork from the US, or 13.1 percent of total imports.
Additional reporting by Lee Hsin-fang, Chen Yun and Yeh Yung-chien
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