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Opening to Canadian beef conditional: Health Ministry

2014/01/17 17:30:08

Taipei, Jan. 17 (CNA) Taiwan's upcoming market-opening measure for Canadian beef will not cover cattle parts with a high risk of carrying mad cow disease, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said Friday.

These high-risk parts include internal organs, skulls, eyes, brains, spinal cords and ground meat, which will remain barred from entering Taiwan, said Chiang Yu-mei, deputy director-general of the Food and Drug Administration under the ministry.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs announced earlier in the day that the government is to allow imports of Canadian bone-in beef and other meat products from cattle under 30 months of age.

At present, only boneless beef from cattle under 30 months of age is allowed into the country.

Chiang noted that Canada, which last reported a bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) outbreak three years ago, is currently listed as a country with "controlled BSE risk" by the World Organization for Animal Health.

The decision to open Taiwan's market to Canadian beef was made after a risk assessment, discussions and four inspection tours of the North American country's cattle industry, with a focus on feed and slaughterhouse sanitation, she said.

The conditions set by Taiwan for Canadian beef imports will be the same as those for beef from the United States, another BSE-affected country, she added.

Based on data from 2012, as much as 94 percent of beef demand in Taiwan is met by imports, with 46 percent from Australia, 24.76 percent from the United States, 23 percent from New Zealand and 0.3 percent from Canada. Other smaller suppliers include Panama, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

Agriculture Minister Chen Bao-ji said the opening will have little impact on Taiwan's cattle industry, which has only a 6 percent market share.

Agreeing with Chen, Chang Chuan-chung, chairman of the Taiwan Beef Industry Progress Association, said domestically produced beef is well-received among local customers and enjoys a stable market share because Taiwan's cattle industry does not use leanness enhancing drugs in raising the animals.

Legislators, meanwhile, expressed their support for the plan.

Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng said the conditional opening of Canadian beef imports takes into account the safety of consumers while demonstrating Taiwan's commitment to fair trade.

The move should be helpful to Taiwan's bid to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, he said.

Hsu Chung-hsin of the opposition Taiwan Solidarity Union said the opening falls in line with the most-favored-nation principle of the World Trade Organization, given that Taiwan has already opened its market to U.S. bone-in beef.

(By Lung Jui-yun, Yang Shu-min, Chen Wei-ting and Y.F. Low)