April 27, 2012
Taiwan to still import US beef amid mad cow disease finding
The Department of Health of China said Wednesday (Apr 25) that it will still import US beef, despite the detection there a day earlier of a new case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease.
Health Minister Chiu Wen-ta said in a press conference held to address the issue that the decision was based on the factors that the meat from the dairy cow that tested positive for BSE did not enter the food supply chain and that preliminary reports have shown the infection to be an isolated case, reading from a statement.
Taiwan has asked the US to provide relevant epidemiology reports so that it can make a further policy evaluation, he went on.
Taiwan will immediately cease importing US beef products only if the US is pulled off the list of countries recognised by the World Organization for Animal Health as "risk controlled," he said, citing a protocol signed by the two sides in 2009.
The latest case came to attention April 24, when the dairy cow in central California was confirmed to be infected with atypical BSE by the USDA. BSE is fatal to cows and eating tainted meat can cause a fatal brain disease in humans known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
Japan and South Korea announced earlier Wednesday that they will not stop importing US beef because of the new BSE case.
In the meantime, Food and Drug Administration Director-General Kang Jaw-jou said the government will reinforce border control measures to prevent barred US beef products from entering Taiwan.
Kang said that Taiwan will continue its preventive "three controls, five checkpoints" measures for monitoring imports of US beef.
The controls refer to setting controls for imported beef at the source, at borders and in markets.
The checkpoints refer to verifying certification documents, checking that shipments are marked with detailed product information, opening a high percentage of cartons of imported beef to check the product, conducting food safety tests, and requiring information on suspected problem products to be immediately available.
Imports of US beef have been a sore point in trade ties between Taipei and Washington.
Taiwan first banned imports when a case of BSE was reported in the state of Washington in December 2003 and then re-opened its doors to imports of boneless US beef from cattle under 30 months old in April 2005.
It imposed another ban in June 2005 when a second US case was reported.
Imports of certain cuts of US beef have since been resumed, but Washington has been pressing for wider opening and more recently, has lobbied strongly for Taiwan to lift its ban on beef containing the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine.