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Foundation appeals to consumers to support U.S. beef referendum bid

Foundation appeals to consumers to support U.S. beef referendum bid

Taipei, July 16 (CNA) Hoping to save its flagging bid to hold a national referendum on the import of U.S. beef products, the Consumers' Foundation urged Taiwan's consumers Friday to not forsake their right to make their own decision and back the initiative.
The foundation appealed to consumers to endorse the referendum on reopening beef talks with the United States, arguing that they should not get complacent despite legislation passed in February that bars U.S. ground beef, beef offal and other "risky" beef parts from entering Taiwan.
"Beef eaters are not completely safe from the threat of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) contamination simply because they will not be exposed to high-risk U.S. ground beef or beef offal," the foundation said.
The group cited results of tests from the United States, Italy and France as indicating that high-risk prion proteins, the source of BSE, were also found in bone-in beef, including bones with meat, skirts (diaphragm) and tongues, blood tubes, tonsils and other internal parts.
The Consumers' Foundation-led initiative met its first threshold in February by collecting 129,000 signatures supporting the referendum, far surpassing the required 86,000 signatures.
That permitted the drive to move on to the second stage, in which the initiators needed to obtain the endorsement of at least 5 percent, or roughly 860,000, of eligible voters in Taiwan, within six months.
But as of this week, only 100,000 signatures have been collected, and the referendum campaign will be void if another 760,000 signatures cannot be obtained by Aug. 10.
The proposed referendum will ask voters to veto the government's decision to open Taiwan's market to U.S. bone-in beef, ground beef and bovine offal and spines, and demand that the government renegotiate a beef trade protocol with the United States.
Taiwan and the United States signed a protocol last October to allow the entry of bone-in beef and other beef products, including ground beef and offal, that had previously been banned out of concern over BSE, or mad cow disease.
But the protocol triggered a public outcry, prompting the February legislation.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced in mid-April, however, that exports of beef products to Taiwan would include hanging tenders, tongues, penises, testicles, tails, tendons, and diaphragms derived from cattle less than 30 months of age slaughtered on or after April 1.
(By Yang Su-min and Deborah Kuo)