The Ministry of Health and Welfare would neither encourage nor ban feeding toddlers US pork containing ractopamine, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said yesterday.
Chen was speaking at a meeting of the legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee on the potential health effects of consuming US pork containing the “leanness-enhancing” additive, before a ban on the imports ends on Jan. 1 next year.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安), who is one of the committee’s conveners, said that the ministry on Sept. 5 announced the maximum residue limits (MRL) for ractopamine of 0.04 parts per million (ppm) for pork liver and kidneys, and 0.01ppm for pork fat and all other edible parts.
Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times
“If the ministry’s claim that ractopamine intake within the MRL is ‘guaranteed safe’ is true, then why are local hog farmers banned from using the substance?” Chiang said.
“Because [the government] clearly knows that ractopamine harms the human body and there are still uncertainties,” he added. “Why else is [pork containing ractopamine] banned in the military and schools?”
KMT Legislator Lin Te-fu (林德福) asked Chen if US pork containing ractopamine was safe for toddlers, who usually have weaker immune systems, as several authorities have announced that military personnel, police, athletes and students would not eat it.
The ministry views the intake of pork containing ractopamine within the MRLs safe, but other agencies might have their own considerations, Chen said, adding that as for whether young children under the age of two should eat it, the ministry neither recommends it nor forbids it.
Su Wei-shuo (蘇偉碩), a former psychiatrist at Kaohsiung Veterans General Hospital’s Tainan branch, said that the acceptable daily intake level for ractopamine suggested by the ministry and the level set by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1999 were based on an experiment using eight rhesus monkeys.
“However, can an experiment on eight rhesus monkeys guarantee the health of 23 million people?” he said.
Other animal studies have shown increased mortality in cattle given ractopamine and increased aggressive behavior in hogs that were fed the additive, he added.
A mother surnamed Wang (王) said that many mothers spend great effort and time studying what is safe and clean for their children to eat, but the government cannot guarantee that eating pork containing ractopamine would not cause neurotoxicity or allergic reactions in infants.
She also questioned how the government would conduct thorough inspections on pork served at food stalls and other sites.
If the government does not designate a specialized standard classification code for imported US pork containing ractopamine, the ministry would be unable to conduct strict inspections from the source, KMT Legislator Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) said.
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