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Taiwanese Retailers Pull US Beef

19 January 2011

TAIWAN - US beef has been removed from sale by two retail chains following the finding of a banned feed additive in the meat.

Two chain stores announced on 15 January that they had pulled US beef products from their shelves following the news that a banned drug used to promote leanness in meat had been detected in beef imported from the US, reports Focus Taiwan.

The two stores – the hypermarket, RT-Mart and the wholesale members warehouse, Costco – also said they would accept refund requests from customers who purchased any of the products before they were removed from the shelves.

However, some 1,500 kg of the beef is feared to have been consumed.

Citing China Times, the report continues that a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) official said on 15 January that three batches of imported US beef were detected to contain residue of the animal feed additive, ractopamine.

Tsai Shu-chen, chief of the FDA's food division, said the 1,667kg of beef products were imported from the United States last December.

RT-Mart was supplied with 1,207kg of the beef and pulled 112.5kg from the shelves in response to the alert, while Costco had already sold all 460kg it had taken delivery of.

The products were found to contain ractopamine levels of between 0.64 and 2.84 parts per billion, in violation of the country's total ban on the drug, Mr Tsai said.

The Control Yuan, the nation's highest watchdog body, has said that it would conduct an investigation into the use of ractopamine in livestock and see if responsible government agencies have fulfilled their duty in ensuring food safety and protecting consumers.

Cheng Jen-cheng, one of the two members in charge of the investigation, said he would see if the Council of Agriculture has been inspecting livestock for signs of use of the substance.

He said he will also find out if the Department of Health has conducted random checks on meat products.

Last year, Taiwan imported an estimated 1,126 tons of bone-in beef and more than 33,000 tons of boneless beef products from the United States, accounting for a market share of 70 per cent.

This is the first time that ractopamine has been detected since Taiwan opened its doors to boneless US beef in 2007.

Citing United Daily News, Focus Taiwan reports that a COA official said the DOH assessed a maximum allowable level for ractopamine in August 2007, but the proposal was nixed due to opposition from domestic hog-raising groups.

Hsu Tien-lai, director general of the COA's Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine, said the groups did not want imported meat products to contain the substance as local farmers did not use it.

An FDA official said that currently, 26 countries – including the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia – allow the use of ractopamine and follow a formula for allowable levels.

The Consumers' Foundation said the government has always asked livestock operators to ban the use, and that the European Union and China also ban its use.

Amid reports that the DOH might ease the ban on ractopamine use, foundation Chairwoman Joann Su said the DOH should not buckle to US pressure on the issue.

"If the government insists on easing the ban, the foundation will not rule out the possibility of launching a boycott campaign," Su said.

Su noted that US pork had previously been detected to contain ractopamine and that the DOH at that time did not allow local farmers to use it.

If local livestock operators cannot use ractopamine, imported meat should not be allowed to contain it, Su said.

Citing Liberty Times, Focus Taiwan reports that Department of Health Minister, Yaung Chih-liang, said the allowable ractopamine levels could be discussed further but pointed out that it is still banned under current regulations.

Minister Yaung said the DOH is acting according to regulations and that there will be no exceptions for either local or foreign products.

He noted that geese raised on a few local farms were found recently to contain ractopamine and were immediately culled.

His words came amid reports that the Office of the United States Trade Representative has asked Taiwan to ease the ban on ractopamine use in meat products.

TheCattleSite News Desk


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