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Review of meat safety amendments delayed over U.S. mad cow case

2012/04/25 13:06:10

Taipei, April 25 (CNA) Taiwan's Legislature has postponed a meeting to review legal revisions related to imports of U.S. beef, demanding that the government first verify reports that a dairy cow in California had been discovered with mad cow disease.

The Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee was scheduled Wednesday to review draft amendments to the Act Governing Food Sanitation related to lifting a ban on imports of U.S. beef containing the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine.

But the meeting was postponed to allow the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Council of Agriculture and the Department of Health to have the United States confirm the report, said committee chairman Tsai Chin-lung of the ruling Kuomintang.

The officials also must find out whether other countries, such as South Korea, have prohibited U.S. beef imports in the wake of the mad cow case as has been reported, Tsai said.

"We will begin the meeting after they get back to us," he said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed Tuesday the fourth U.S. case of mad cow disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, in a dairy cow being processed in a rendering facility in central California.

But public officials in the United States said the meat from the cow did not enter the food supply, according to reports.

Echoing Tsai's remarks, Health Minister Chiu Wen-ta, who was alsopresent at the committee hearing, said "we have to confirm a lot of information that came in this morning."

Chiu said he would be willing to return to the meeting to discuss issues related to U.S. beef imports after he had the confirmed information.

Opposition Taiwan Solidarity Union lawmaker Lin Shih-chia disagreed with the postponement of the meeting, however, saying that mad cow disease and the use of leanness enhancing drugs are different issues.

Taiwan banned imports of all U.S. beef in 2003 and again in 2005 because of mad cow disease cases and has only gradually re-opened its market to certain cuts of beef since then.

Though Washington has pressed Taipei to widen the range of beef allowed to be imported, it more recently has focused its lobbying efforts on getting Taiwan to lift its ban on ractopamine.

(By Elaine Hou)