Taiwan will lift its ban on importing US bone-in beef in the next few days, despite protests from consumer groups citing risks of mad cow disease, an official said Thursday. The Department of Health (DOH) will make the announcement on importing US bone-in beef Friday or at a later date before the end of October, Broadcasting Corp of China quoted DOH minister Taung Chih-liang as saying.
The import of US bone-in beef will be carried out in two stages and under strict supervision, he was quoted as saying.
In the first stage, only bone-in beef frow cattle under 30 months old will be allowed to be imported.
Importers of US bone-in beef must have export permits and safety guarantees from the US Department of Agriculture, Yaung said.
In recent months, Taiwan leaders have hinted on several occasions that Taipei would soon open its market to US bone-in beef.
But consumer groups have been urging the government not to lift the ban and put Taiwan consumers’ health at risk, as beef with bones has a higher chance of carrying bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) – commonly known as mad-cow disease – than de-boned beef.
Taiwan banned US beef import in 2003 after the first case of BSE was spotted in the north-western US city of Seattle.
It partially resumed imports of US de-boned beef in April, 2005, and reimposed the ban two months later when the second BSE case was reported in the US. Under repeated demands from the US, it resumed imports of de-boned beef from cattle under 30-months old in 2006.
The US was a major supplier of beef for Taiwan before the restriction, and it currently still has a market share of 32 percent on the island.