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Taiwan to continue U.S. beef imports despite mad cow disease case

2012/04/25 21:19:13

Taipei, April 25 (CNA) The Department of Health said Wednesday that it will continue to import beef from the United States, despite the discovery there a day earlier of a new case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease.

Health Minister Chiu Wen-ta said in a press conference held to addressthe issue that the decision was based on the factors that the meat fromthe dairy cow that tested positive for BSE did not enter the food supplychain and that preliminary reports have shown the infection to be anisolated case, reading from a statement.

Taiwan has asked the U.S. to provide relevant epidemiology reports so that it can make a further policy evaluation, he went on.

Taiwan will immediately cease importing U.S. beef products only if the U.S. is pulled off the list of countries recognized by the World Organization for Animal Health as “risk controlled,” he said, citing a protocol signed by the two sides in 2009.

The latest case came to attention April 24, when the dairy cow incentral California was confirmed to be infected with atypical BSE by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. BSE is fatal to cows and eating tainted meat can cause a fatal brain disease in humans known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Japan and South Korea announced earlier Wednesday that they will not stop importing U.S. beef because of the new BSE case.

In the meantime, Food and Drug Administration Director-General Kang Jaw-jou said the government will reinforce border control measures to prevent barred U.S. beef products from entering Taiwan.

Kang said that Taiwan will continue its preventive "three controls, five checkpoints" measures for monitoring imports of U.S. beef.

The controls refer to setting controls for imported beef at the source, at borders and in markets.

The checkpoints refer to verifying certification documents, checking that shipments are marked with detailed product information, opening a high percentage of cartons of imported beef to check the product, conducting food safety tests, and requiring information on suspected problem products to be immediately available.

Imports of U.S. beef have been a sore point in trade ties between Taipei and Washington.

Taiwan first banned imports when a case of BSE was reported in thestate of Washington in December 2003 and then re-opened its doors to imports of boneless U.S. beef from cattle under 30 months old in April2005.

It imposed another ban in June 2005 when a second U.S. case wasreported.

Imports of certain cuts of U.S. beef have since been resumed, but Washington has been pressing for wider opening and more recently, has lobbied strongly for Taiwan to lift its ban on beef containing the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine.

(By Nancy Liu)