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Taiwan starts lot-by-lot checks of US beef in ractopamine dispute

No lots of beef turn up at borders on first morning: DOH

Taiwan starts lot-by-lot checks of US beef in ractopamine dispute

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The Department of Health began its lot-by-lot checks of imported beef products Tuesday in a move to ally fears over the presence of the leanness agent ractopamine, but there were no reports of any US beef at all reaching harbors.
The drug is still banned, but since the January 14 reelection of President Ma Ying-jeou, his government has been moving toward the legalization of the product. A resumption of bilateral US-Taiwan trade talks depended on progress on the issue, officials said.
The widespread discovery of ractopamine in a variety of meat products from various countries at restaurants, markets and retail outlets even before the lifting of the ban has created fear that the government’s import checks were completely inadequate.
Beginning Tuesday, DOH officials would check each lot of beef products arriving from countries which had records of violations in the past. Reports named the US, Canada, Panama and Nicaragua as the countries of origin facing 100-percent reviews, though some Australian products would also be checked. If no problems were discovered, the frequency of the checks would be reduced to the 5-percent level now common for products from other countries.
However, DOH officials reported that early Tuesday, not a single batch of US beef had reached Taiwan. Importers were afraid that once ractopamine was discovered in their wares, the whole lot would be destroyed and their investment would be lost, officials said. The companies preferred to let the meat products sit inside refrigerators or be moved to third countries to avoid the checks, the media quoted DOH officials as saying.
Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and the harbors of Kaohsiung, Keelung and Taichung all reported the same absence of product to check, the media said.
Meanwhile, the opposition slammed the Government Information Office for printing 250,000 brochures about its ractopamine policies and distributing them with newspapers. Premier Sean Chen said the publication would help the public understand the four conditions his Cabinet had attached to the eventual ending of the ractopamine ban. The conditions are the issuing of a clear legal maximum content level for the drug, compulsory labeling and a continuation of the ractopamine ban on intestines and pork.
The opposition People First Party said the government should stop promoting illegal drugs. Ractopamine was still banned by law, so the government should not be paying taxpayers’ money to print materials promoting the drugs, PFP legislative caucus whip Thomas Lee said Tuesday.
He suggested the government should pass the bill for the brochures on to the American Institute in Taiwan, because promoting ractopamine was its task, not the Taiwan government’s.
The Consumers Foundation published a poll Tuesday showing that 69.7 percent would not buy beef treated with ractopamine. A total of 26.81 percent said that the government’s measures to stop the lean meats to enter the country had failed, so once ractopamine was legalized, there would be no way of knowing where the safe meat was.
For the time being, 73.95 percent of the respondents already felt they could not rely on the safety of meat products on sale. Opposition to an end to the ban on ractopamine reached 75.48 percent, the poll said.
The Consumers Foundation said 75.73 percent approved of establishing a system where consumers could trace the origin of food back to the original farm.
The foundation said its poll was conducted over the Internet March 6-9 and received 1,575 valid responses.