A total of seven proposals aiming to regulate the use of the feed additive ractopamine have been submitted to the legislature, which has earned a say in major policy decisions, at least during this legislative session.
Among the proposed amendments to the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法), six different versions proposed by the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) caucus, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus, and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers suggested maintaining the ban on ractopamine in imported meats.
The amendment from the People First Party (PFP) caucus was the only one that proposed allowing imports of meat with ractopamine residue, but only after the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the international food standards body, approved draft standards for maximum residue levels (MRLs) for ractopamine.
Executive Yuan spokesman Philip Yang (楊永明) declined to comment on the proposals, saying the government had not yet decided its stance on the issue.
Taiwan has been under pressure from the US to allow the import of US beef containing traces of ractopamine, banned in the country since 2006, and the ban could be lifted via an executive order by the government legally mandating permissible levels of feed additives.
Based on their opposition to any relaxation of the ban, the DPP and the TSU both sought to restrict administrative discretion in the -interest of public health.
The DPP-proposed amendment stipulated that standards on permissible levels of pesticide residue or veterinary drugs set by the government “shall be subject to legislative approval before implementation.”
Similarly, the TSU version proposed that the government “shall refer the standards to the legislature for approval before implementation when it comes to substances deemed harmful to human health.”
The DPP also sought to write into the Act Governing Food Sanitation prohibition of the use of beta-agonists, the class of drug to which ractopamine belongs, and that the tolerance for beta-agonists in livestock products, including brains, eyes, spines, ground meat, offal and related products shall be zero.
KMT Legislator Yang Li-huan (楊麗環) drafted a proposal setting out a zero-tolerance policy for the meat products with traces of beta-agonists and imposed a fine of up to NT$6 million (US$202,000) for those found to be in violation.
KMT Legislator Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順) put forward an amendment that proposed even more severe measures to keep Taiwan’s animal husbandry sector completely free of beta-agonists.
Under her proposal, meat products with traces of beta-agonists would be defined as substances harmful to human health, and their production, processing, sale, import and export prohibited.
Countries and areas that have recorded cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or “mad cow disease”) or a disease in humans called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), that allow the use of beta-agonists, and have had cases of meat found with traces of beta-agonists would be defined by as “high-risk countries and areas.”
Huang said that meat imports from such places should carry a warning label identifying the country of origin and must be subject to safety testing conducted at the place of production, national borders and in markets.
The government should closely monitor meat products imported from such places by verifying documentation, checking whether shipments are marked with detailed product information, opening a high percentage of containers at borders to conduct food safety tests and provide access information on suspected problem products immediately, the proposal said.
The PFP argued that Taiwan should lift the ban if the Codex Alimentarius Commission approved the draft MRLs recommended by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives to bring its local rules into line with international standards when they are established.
Its proposal stipulated that permissible levels of pesticide residue or veterinary drugs in the country should not be higher than the standards set up by the Codex Alimentarius Commission.
On Friday the Executive Yuan reached a consensus with lawmakers opposed to lifting the ban that it would not allow the import of US beef containing traces of ractopamine via an executive order before the legislative session ends at the end of May or June.
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