Pork importers on Saturday sought to assuage public fears over buying unhealthy pork by renewing their vow to only import ractopamine-free pork products, while urging the government to maintain inspection and labeling requirements.
The nation on Jan. 1 began allowing the importation of pork containing trace amounts of the leanness-enhancing feed additive, but importers at the time decided against taking advantage of the new rule, Poultry Sale and Development Association honorary chairman Lee Chun-lai (李春來) said.
The importers figured that there was no market for such products, considering the worries over public safety, and they harbored concerns about operational issues due to how it complicated sourcing for processed foods, Lee said.
Although a referendum on Saturday calling for a ban on the imports failed, importers would stick to their previous decision, he added.
It is now a legal fact that pork containing trace amounts of ractopamine can be imported, Republic of China Swine Association chairman Yang Chieh (楊杰) said.
However, government officials should keep their promise to promote domestic pork and maintain strict border testing for ractopamine, he added.
Taiwan has “already reached critical mass” for self-sufficiency, as it produces nearly 93 percent of the pork it consumes, Yang said.
As it is not possible to raise pigs on a greater scale, Yang said he hopes that the rate would remain above 90 percent to sustain the price of domestic pork.
Production costs for pork are higher in Taiwan than in Europe or the US, but the products are fresher and farmers do not use ractopamine, Yang said.
As it is impossible to become entirely self-sufficient, cheaper imported pork is necessary to stabilize prices, Lee said, urging the public to rest assured that imported pork would remain safe to consume.
After the referendum on Saturday, government officials reiterated their promises to protect the local pork industry and public health.
Clear labeling has brought local producers a boost in sales and consumer trust, Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) said, vowing to keep protecting farmers’ incomes.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said inspections would continue to be as strict as ever.
Allowing imports would be a great help to Taiwan’s bid to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, while also opening a new chapter in Taiwan-US relations, Minister Without Portfolio John Deng (鄧振中) said.
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