Taipei, April 14 (CNA) Consumers have options when deciding what to eat and do not have to eat items they have doubt about, Premier Sean Chen said Saturday in explaining the government's policy to conditionally lift the ban on ractopamine in beef imports.
"Food (consumption) should be a choice," Chen said at a forum held to educate the general public on ractopamine, a feed additive approved for use in 20-plus countries but currently banned in Taiwan.
Last month, President Ma Ying-jeou's administration announced that it favored easing the ban on ractopamine in beef, but the decision was met with controversy.
Civic groups argued that the government was forcing people to consume meat that could pose health risks, but Chen disagreed.
Taking vegetables grown with pesticides as an example, Chen told an audience of about 400 that those with doubts were free to choose organic produce.
"Meanwhile, it is the government's responsibility to make sure that every choice people make is safe," he said, noting that even with pesticides, maximum residue levels (MRL) are imposed to ensure food safety.
The forum was the latest in a series of public relations efforts by the Ma administration to justify its inclination to adopt an MRL for ractopamine.
A handout given at the forum clearly linked the issue to Taiwan's credibility and future prospects.
In 2007, Taiwan notified the World Trade Organization of its intention to establish an MRL for ractopamine. A further delay in doing so could put the nation's credibility at risk, it said.
The issue has also prevented a resumption of trade talks with Washington under the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement.
The beef controversy is not only a health issue, the handout said, but is connected to the nation's economic prospects and its relationship with the United States.
(By Nancy Liu)