TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Taiwan's "ractopamine pig" issue "has triggered a political storm," according to a South China Morning Post story on Friday (Jan. 12).
The issue could harm the prospects of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in next year’s local elections, the Hong Kong paper said. It has also allowed the Kuomintang (KMT) to take the initiative and stir up protests against hog imports from the United States.
As a result, more than 500,000 signatures have been collected in support of a referendum against pork containing ractopamine from the U.S. The KMT is expecting to oversee a nationwide vote on the issue Aug. 28.
The poll would ask the public if a total ban should be imposed on imported American pork containing the feed additive. The KMT is expected to submit the signatures to the Central Election Commission within a month, while the Referendum Act (公民投票法) dictates when the vote can be held.
Ractopamine increases weight gain for pigs but makes the meat leaner. The European Food Safety Authority has shown that ractopamine elevates the heart rate in humans, while 160 countries ban the chemical in meat imports.
In order to curry favor with the previous U.S. administration of Donald Trump, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) agreed in August last year to lift the ban on pork with ractopamine. This measure was introduced on Jan. 1 but there has been considerable kickback.
The online Food Safety News detailed in January how 11 major retailers in Taiwan took part in a voluntary scheme to help consumers avoid ractopamine-tainted meat. Furthermore, local governments in Taiwan are insisting on batch testing and publishing results for pork imports, while Taichung is imposing penalties for foods found to contain the additive.
In response, the Council of Agriculture came up with a "Pork Dashboard" to keep the public informed on a daily basis about the origin and quality of imported pork. It can be accessed on the Food and Drug Administration's website.
"The situation in Taiwan is only the latest blow to ractopamine, which in the past year has been dropped by the world’s largest pork producers, including Smithfield, JBS, and Tyson," Food Safety News said. "All have opted to do with a ractopamine-free hog supply to ease their access to world markets."