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Probe launched as banned additive detected in Taiwan’s local frozen pork

Traces of cimbuterol found in state-overseen product, raising food safety concerns

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Pork product found to contain banned feed additive. (Taichung City Government photo)

Pork product found to contain banned feed additive. (Taichung City Government photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — An investigation has been initiated following the discovery of traces of cimbuterol, a banned feed additive known for promoting leanness, in domestically produced pork in Taichung.

A variant of frozen pork processed by Sings Kout Trading Co. in Pingtung under the supervision of the state-owned Taiwan Sugar Corporation (Taisugar), was found to contain 0.002 ppm of cimbuterol during an inspection conducted last month, according to Taichung Health Bureau on Friday (Feb. 2).

In response, the batch was promptly removed from shelves at a PX Mart outlet and a store operated by the Ministry of Defense’s General Welfare Service in Taichung. The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) has initiated samplings of blood, hair, and feed from swine on farms linked to the contaminated products to identify the source of the contamination.

Retailers stocking the product now face fines ranging from NT$60,000 (US1,911) to NT$200 million under the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation (食品安全衛生管理法).

This incident marks the first detection of the banned chemical in Taiwan in a decade, said the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The use of β-agonists, including additives enhancing leanness, has been illegal since 2012, and none of these prohibited chemicals were found in the 19,300 samples collected between 2014 and 2023, according to MOA.

Taisugar said the company has not procured such additives and has mandated regular testing for its partner companies. The company suspects cross-contamination during outsourced butchering and said that health authorities are investigating potential vulnerabilities in the supply chain, per CNA.

The issue of leanness-promoting feed additives in meat has been a contentious topic in Taiwan, with the Tsai administration allowing ractopamine-laden pork imports from the U.S. in 2021. This decision has sparked debates surrounding health risks and allegations of a trade-off with Washington for facilitated trade talks.