The Cabinet-level Department of Health (DOH) yesterday announced that the allowable maximum residue of ractopamine in beef imports has been set at 10 parts per billion (ppb) as recommended by the Codex Alimentarius Commission as a reference point. Additionally, all beef-related products must bear a label of product origin, paving the way for official imports of beef containing the leanness-enhancing drug.
The announcement of new regulations came after the Legislative Yuan ratified amendments to the Act Governing Food Sanitation in late July that opened Taiwan’s doors to imports of beef containing traces of ractopamine, a leanness-enhancing drug used in animal feed.
Kang Jao-jou, director-general of the Food and Drug Administration under the DOH, said that dealers of beef-related products will initially be required to label only the origin of their beef products, adding that whether they will be asked to label the amount of ractopamine residue in their beef products will depend on mitigating circumstances.
Kang continued that all the beef products sold at hypermarkets, shopping malls, supermarkets, convenience stores, grocery stores and traditional retail markets, as well as restaurants, fast food chain stores, night markets and food stands should bear the labels of product origin, even if the beef products are supplied domestically.
In addition, Kang noted, vendors of all packed beef foods, including instant beef noodles, dried beef and beef balls are also required to put their product origin on the exterior packaging to serve as a consumer reference.
The Food and Drug Administration will soon invite representatives from all related sectors to discuss the size and the specification of the product origin labels, and will work out a set of standards in this regard.
Just one month earlier, both ruling and opposition lawmakers were caught in a longstanding dispute over whether to allow imports of beef containing the livestock feed additive ractopamine. But the dispute came to an end on July 25, when the Legislative Yuan voted 63-46 to pass amendments to the Act Governing Food Sanitation authorising government agencies to set safety standards for ractopamine used as cattle feed additive.
Forty Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators and three each from the People First Party (PFP) and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) voted against the amendment. The DPP and PFP favoured a standard stricter than 10ppm, while the TSU insisted on a zero-tolerance policy.
With the vote passed, President Ma Ying-jeou said the government would seek to resume Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks with the US – which have been stalled since 2007 – immediately and speed up regional economic integration.
“Resolving the US beef import issue demonstrates our willingness to be part of regional economic integration. Our next step is to resume talks on the TIFA with the US We cannot afford to wait any longer,” Presidential Office spokesman Fan Chiang Tai-chi said of Ma’s response to the vote.