Taiwan faces heated calls for reversal of ractopamine policy

Movement against import of ractopamine-laden pork gains traction

(Pixabay photo)

(Pixabay photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A non-profit organization fighting for consumers’ rights in Taiwan is urging the government to backtrack on the decision to allow the import of ractopamine-laden American pork starting next year.

A petition to ban the import of the feed additive that promotes leanness in swine has garnered the support of over 111,000 people since its launch on Oct. 20. Meanwhile, a rally slated for Sunday (Nov. 22) for this cause has gathered momentum among the public, according to the Consumers’ Foundation.

Potential health risks associated with the veterinary drug have been a bone of contention since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) announced the lifting of restrictions on U.S. pork in late August. Critics say the government has failed to produce any convincing evidence of the safety of long-term consumption of the additive based on scientific studies, while local academics hold conflicting views on the issue.

The Consumers’ Foundation also warns of a possible blow to Taiwan’s processed food industry dealt by what it calls the reckless move to relax relevant import rules. As ractopamine is banned by the EU and many nations, industry players could find their products denied access to the international market if traces of the feed additive are found in their goods.

Therefore, the foundation is asking the government to renegotiate with the U.S. on the matter, while pushing for a reliable traceability scheme for agricultural products. Local governments have heeded the calls and in some cases implemented bans on meat containing ractopamine.

New Taipei, which staunchly rejects ractopamine-laden meat, announced Thursday all of its hospitals, nursing homes, and children’s welfare institutions will join the city’s schools and daycare centers in using Taiwan-produced pork only, which is ractopamine-free.

The Tsai Ing-wen administration’s measure is widely seen as a quid pro quo for a trade deal with the U.S., talks for which are taking place on Friday. Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) has touted the talks as likely to result in the inking of a memorandum of understanding.