Taiwan finally to actively regulate betel nut tree planting

Council of Agriculture is changing its passive attitude on betel nuts

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Betel nuts tree (Source: flickr)

Betel nuts tree (Source: flickr)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Council of Agriculture (COA) Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) announced on Wednesday (July 10) that the council will complete drafting regulations on safety management of betel nuts production and betel nuts prevention to safeguard citizens’ health within the fiscal year, the Liberty Times (LTN) reports.

Taiwan has adopted a passive three no’s policy “no encouragement, no prohibition, no advisory” on betel nuts for over 30 years, despite they are listed as group 1 carcinogens according to International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) standards. Chen argued that the government should not continue this passive attitude and neglect the fact that there are huge amounts of production, import, and consumption of betel nuts in the country.

Chen said that COA will draft an act on betel nuts similar to the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act to discourage consumption. COA will also make regulations on the safety measures and pesticides used in production of betel nuts.

Currently, the lack of regulation has led to a great health hazard for consumers, as there could be as many as 14 types of pesticide residues in a betel nut, LTN reports. However, Chen said that it is difficult to regulate the residue as betel nuts are not considered to be “food” under current regulations, which will require cooperation with Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) to fix.

Chen emphasized that the regulations will be applicable to both domestically produced and imported betel nuts so to safeguard national health. He also added that COA will continue its efforts on encouraging plantation transformation through its current advisory and subsidy policy, which has successfully transformed 3,281 hectares of plantations since 2014.

According to COA, there are currently still approximately 42,510 hectares of betel nuts plantations, spreading across Nantou, Pingtung, Chiayi and Hualien that produce 100,000 tons of betel nuts annually.