Taiwan scraps age restrictions on US beef imports, allows US pork containing ractopamine

US access to Taiwan's beef and pork markets anticipated to open up bilateral free trade talks

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(CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) announced Friday (Aug. 28) that the country would be dropping import restrictions on U.S. beef from cattle over 30 months old and on U.S. pork containing ractopamine in conformity with international health standards.

The order will not require approval from the Legislative Yuan, Tsai said.

Taiwan has imported deboned U.S. beef from cattle aged under 30 months since early 2006. The U.S. requested expanded access to Taiwan's beef and beef products markets following the OIE's ruling on the U.S.' status as a "controlled risk" for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in 2007.

The two countries have since then engaged in lengthy negotiations on opening up the island's beef market. In 2010, Taiwan's legislature amended food safety regulations to expand access for American beef but retained a ban on beef and beef products from cattle over 30 months old as well as on specified risk materials. In 2013, the OIE amended the U.S.' BSE risk status to "negligible."

Meanwhile, Taiwan implemented a ban on U.S. pork given ractopamine, a feed additive that promotes leanness in livestock. It is considered safe for human consumption in the U.S., Japan and South Korea.

Tsai said on Friday that restrictions on U.S. pork containing ractopamine will be lifted in line with international standards as stated in FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius. This accords with a number of scientific studies on the subject.

Tsai did not mention the acceptable amount of residual ractopamine in meat, but this is expected to be revealed in a future press conference held by the Cabinet. In 2012, the Codex Committee established maximum residue limits of 10 parts per billion (ppb) for ractopamine in beef and pork.

"Given no reports of food safety issues from U.S. beef and pork products and increased demand from Taiwanese, we have decided to expand the access to U.S. beef and pork," said Tsai. She guaranteed this would not affect local hog farmers and asked for support, as the decisions were made out of consideration of national interest and strategic development.

U.S. beef and pork issues have been hurdles in the way of free trade talks with Washington. As a sweetener, a NT$10 billion (US$341 million) fund for the hog industry will be allocated in response to challenges faced by pig farmers and to help improve the export competitiveness of local pork, Tsai said.

She emphasized that the health authorities will continue to implement strict border checks on U.S. beef and pork imports. Rules for country of origin labeling will also be enforced in both the retail and restaurant industries to safeguard the health of consumers.