The medical community on Friday called for an assessment of the risk of consuming meat containing ractopamine as Taiwan plans to allow imports of US pork containing the controversial lean meat additive.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) earlier on Friday announced that Taiwan would set a standard for ractopamine in imported pork and ease restrictions on US beef from cattle aged more than 30 months in an apparent attempt to pave the way to negotiate a trade deal with the US.
Su Wei-shuo (蘇偉碩), a clinical psychiatrist who has attended technical advisory committee meetings in the past on the import of US beef, worries that the move is being made without a sound scientific basis, saying that the international community has not done a risk assessment on long-term consumption of ractopamine.
Photo: Lin Yi-chang, Taipei Times
When the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the body responsible for implementing international food standards, set the allowable amount of ractopamine in 2012, it did so by a vote, because of the lack of a scientific consensus on the issue, Su said.
The commission standard allows up to 10 micrograms per kilogram (mcg/kg) of ractopamine in beef and pork, 40mcg/kg in livers and 90mcg/kg in kidneys.
The maximum residue limit was approved by a 69-67 vote, showing the equal support both for and against the standard, Su said, urging the government to publish a risk assessment report on the issue given the lack of hard data.
Ractopamine does not treat animal diseases, but saves feed costs and increases profits, Su said.
Food safety risks should not be shouldered by consumers, Su said, adding that there could be risks to pregnant women, infants, older people, and patients with liver, kidney or other chronic diseases.
The residual amount of ractopamine in the muscles of cows and pigs are low, and the risks are relatively controllable, said Yang Chen-chang (楊振昌), director of the Division of Clinical Toxicology and Occupational Medicine at Taipei Veterans General Hospital.
However, higher residue levels are found in internal organs such as the lungs and kidneys, and risk assessments should be conducted if imports of internal organs are allowed, Yang said.
In the past, some experts said that animals that feed on additives promoting leanness are more prone to hyperactivity, higher stress levels and faster heart rates, Yang said, adding that the EU believes that there is the possibility of genotoxicity.
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