Taipei, May 3 (CNA) Draft amendments to the food sanitation act, which will largely determine whether more U.S beef imports will be allowed into Taiwan, are expected to be deliberated on the legislative floor next week, the legislative sources said Thursday.
Earlier in the day, the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) and opposition parties held negotiations on the draft bill to amend Act Governing Food Sanitation, and agreed that the bill will be sent to a plenary session of the Legislature after clearing the Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee next Monday.
KMT legislative whip Lin Hung-chih said whatever the results of the committee vote, the KMT will ensure that the bill makes it to the legislative floor, while Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus whip Ker Chien-ming made the same commitment.
Proposals pertaining to allowable levels of ractopamine, a leanness-enhancing livestock drug currently banned in Taiwan, and obligatory labeling to list the additive on meat products will be voted on during the committee session, the parties agreed.
Review of the bill was postponed earlier in the month after DPP lawmakers boycotted a meeting of the committee, following the discovery of a new case of mad cow disease in California on April 24.
Premier Sean Chen said Thursday that Taiwan will immediately suspend imports of U.S. beef and relevant products, as agreed in a bilateral trade protocol, if the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) raises the level of the U.S. mad cow disease risk.
The Cabinet has ordered relevant ministries and agencies to obtain information from the U.S. for an evaluation of the case's potential impact on Taiwan, Chen said after a Cabinet meeting earlier in the day.
Chen said he has also asked the Council of Agriculture to step up measures to convey correct information about the disease and its possible effect on humans.
Meanwhile, an eight-member delegation will give details of its planned trip later this week to eight U.S. slaughterhouses and a cattle ranch, in view of the confirmed case of mad cow disease, Agriculture Minister Chen Bao-ji said.
The slaughterhouses produce around 78 percent of Taiwan's total U.S. beef imports, Chen added.
The delegation will look at whether the meat processing procedures at those facilities conform to regulations and whether beef parts that are considered high risk for mad cow disease are removed, Chen said.
(By Justin Su, Yang Shu-min, Hsieh Chia-chen and Kendra Lin)