The Cabinet on Thursday (Nov. 26) released a five-point plan for the regulation of American pork products, in an effort to ease public concerns over residues of the livestock drug ractopamine, before Taiwan opens its market to such imports from the United States next year.
At a Cabinet meeting, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said the measures will allow the government to closely supervise imported pork "from Customs to the kitchen" and to safeguard the health of the Taiwanese people.
First, American slaughterhouses and meat processing plants that are exporting to Taiwan for the first time will be required to obtain authorization from Taiwanese health authorities, pending on-site inspections, Su said.
When the various products arrive at Taiwan Customs, they will be assigned new Commodity Classification Code numbers to make it easier for the government to track the origin and domestic distribution of the product, he said.
At the same time, Customs will conduct batch-by-batch inspections of pork imports to ensure that they meet "international standards," Su said, referring to the government's maximum residue limits, which are largely based on those of the Codex Alimentarius Commission.
On the consumer end, all locally produced pork will carry a circular label on the package, while imported pork will have a triangular label that clearly identifies the country of origin, he said.
The final element of the plan is strict enforcement, Su said, adding that the government has allocated NT$260 million (US$9.12 million) to subsidize local governments' efforts to enforce the rules, and around NT$60 million for tighter Customs inspections.
According to the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the government will also begin inspections to ensure that domestic vendors comply with the labeling regulations.
Failure to properly label pork products will result in fines of NT$40,000-NT$4 million, while the fine for false labeling will be NT$60,000-NT$2 million, said FDA Director-General Wu Shou-mei (吳秀梅).
Commenting on the Cabinet's five-point plan, Legislator Lin Yi-hua (林奕華) of the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) said none of those measures would allow consumers to determine whether the pork products contained ractopamine.
New Power Party caucus whip Chiu Hsien-chih (邱顯智) also criticized the plan, saying said the government should impose a fine on importers of pork with excessive ractopamine residue levels, rather than just confiscating the shipment.
Meanwhile, according to a survey published Thursday by the KMT-affiliated National Policy Foundation, 70.6 percent of Taiwanese oppose lifting the ban on pork imports containing ractopamine, compared to 22.8 percent who favor the policy.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) announced on Aug. 28 that Taiwan will set standards for pork imports containing the leanness-enhancing additive ractopamine and allow the importation of U.S. beef from cattle over 30 months old, with effect from next year.
The policy is widely seen as an effort to meet the prerequisites for negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement with the U.S., which had long labeled Taiwan's restrictions on meat imports as a trade barrier.
The U.S. Trade Representative's Office has yet to comment publicly on the issue, and it is unclear whether the prospects of a trade agreement will be affected when the new administration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January.