Taipei, Feb. 6 (CNA) The main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) voiced their opposition Monday to the idea of lifting a ban on imports of U.S. beef containing residue of the leanness enhancing feed additive ractopamine.
DPP Legislator Chen Ting-fei, a legislative caucus whip, made clear at a press conference that her party is against imports of any meat products, including beef and pork, that contain feed additives used to promote muscle growth.
Meanwhile, TSU Legislator Hsu Chung-hsin, convener of the minor party's legislative caucus, spelled out his party's opposition, claiming that leanness enhancers are harmful to human health.
"No meat products, whether beef, lamb, pork or chicken, should be allowed into Taiwan if it contains leanness enhancers," he said.
In response to the opposition voices, KMT Legislator Lin Hung-chih, who heads the party's Policy Committee, said the newly sworn-in Cabinet led by Premier Sean Chen, who replaced Wu Den-yih after the latter was elected vice president Jan. 14, needs time to digest the issue.
However, he admitted that whether or not to lift the ban on the use of leanness enhancers is a problem the new Cabinet must face. He said the Cabinet will carefully and completely study the problem before making any decision.
He also said the issue of Taiwan opening its doors to ractopamine-containing U.S. beef is related to national health, food safety and Taiwan-U.S. relations. No matter what the new Cabinet decides to do, the KMT will definitely guard the nation's gateways strictly to protect the people's health, the lawmaker stressed.
Taipei has been facing pressure from Washington to relax its zero tolerance regulations on ractopamine since they were imposed in 2006. In 2011, after Taiwan blocked shipments of U.S. beef containing ractopamine residue, the U.S. extended a suspension of trade talks with Taiwan.
Former Health Minister Yaung Chih-liang, a renowned academic and expert in public health, said it would be better not to review the ban on ractopamine until the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a U.N. organization formed to develop food standards, officially approves the tolerance level for residue of leanness enhancing drugs in beef and pork.
Amid speculation that the government might ease the ban to resolve the U.S. beef issue under pressure from the U.S., Helen Chang, head of the Chiayi county government, spelled out the county's strong opposition to the idea of opening Taiwan's doors to meat products containing muscle growth drugs.
Chang also urged the central government "not to pursue its diplomatic achievements at the expanse of the people's health."
The county chief issued the call along with representatives of hog-raising businesses, breeders and veterinarians in Chiayi, a southern county that has the country's fifth-largest volume of domestically bred livestock and poultry. The breeders also pledged that they will never feed their livestock with banned drugs.
(By Wen Kuei-hsiang, Chen Ting-wei, Chang Ching-fan and Elizabeth Hsu)