February 20, 2015


Taiwan eases import ban on US cow offal  



Taiwan has cleared the import of six types of beef by-products from the US after it has classified them as "non-internal organs", further easing an 11-year ban on cow offal from that country over bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) concerns.


The Taiwanese Bureau of Foreign Trade early this week assigned import serial numbers for bone marrow, blood vessels, head meat, cheek meat, weasand and tallow following a "clarification" from the Taiwan Food & Drug Administration (TFDA) that the six beef by-products had not actually been banned by the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation.


"This is a clarification only and not a lifting of our restrictions against US beef", said Pan Jhy-quan, director of the TFDA Food Safety Division. "The BSE-related ban against internal organs will continue, and we are now simply pointing out that these six types may be imported".


In 2003 Taiwan banned the import of beef from the US after the discovery of a case of BSE, also known as mad cow disease. Taiwan relaxed the rules in 2006, allowing imports of boneless beef. In 2009, it further allowed the entry of American beef on the bone, minced beef, processed beef from cattle younger than 30 months, and 11 by-products.


The farming sector as well as some lawmakers and consumers' organisations have claimed that the government was trying to leverage the latest easing of the ban to ensure participation in the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership trade bloc, at the expense of public health. The government has denied this.


Du Yu, a leader of a group of university professors concerned with agricultural reform, said that according to some experts the six by-products "will end up in burgers and will open the door to genetically modified US meat".


Officials have allayed their fears, pointing out that the Office of International des Epizooties (OIE) or World Organisation for Animal Health had upgraded the US beef industry's status to "negligible BSE risk" status.

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