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Review of beef imports delayed over mad cow case in U.S.

2012/04/26 21:00:20

Taipei, Nov. 26 (CNA) Ruling Kuomintang (KMT) legislators on Thursday criticized the major opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for boycotting a meeting to review laws related to imports of U.S. beef, following the discovery of a new case of mad cow disease in California earlier this week.

DPP legislators disrupted parliamentary procedures by bringing up issues that were not on the meeting's agenda, said Tsai Chin-lung, a KMT lawmaker and convener of the Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee.

Thursday's meeting was aimed at reviewing draft amendments to the Act Governing Food Sanitation, which mandates a ban on imports of U.S. beef containing the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine.

Various DPP lawmakers, however, commented on the potential health risks of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), and asked health authorities to provide further information on the safety of U.S. beef.

“This is not a democratic way of doing things,”said Tsai, who walked out of the meeting and held a press conference later in the day to vent his dismay.

A KMT lawmaker, Wang Yu-min, supported Tsai, saying that her DPP counterparts were“bullying”the Legislature by diverting the talks scheduled on the agenda.

At a different venue, DPP legislators said that it was Tsai who put a halt to the meeting by walking out of the negotiations.

"There was not one KMT lawmaker in the room,”Legislator Chen Ting-fei said, accusing Tsai of being an irresponsible convener.

DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming suggested that KMT legislators walked out of the meetings because they feared that a majority would favor maintaining the ban on ractopamine after the U.S. mad cow scare.

On April 24, a dairy cow in central California was confirmed as being 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.

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

Taiwan first banned imports when a case of BSE was reported in the state 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 April 2005.

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

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 ractopamine residues.

(By Nancy Liu)