Taipei, May 28 (CNA) Taiwan will send a second group to inspect the United States' beef industry if necessary, following a recent case of mad cow disease there in April, an agriculture official said Monday.
The Cabinet-level Council of Agriculture (COA) will not rule out any option, including sending another team to the U.S. this year or possible cooperative inspection trips with Japan and South Korea, COA Deputy Minister Hu Sing-hwa said at a legislative interpellation a day after a delegation returned from the U.S. saying its beef products are safe to eat.
He was questioned on the initial findings of the delegation by several lawmakers.
Opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Huang Wei-che said the team's conclusion was questionable because the delegation's inspection of nine slaughterhouses -- supplying 63 percent of Taiwan's imports of U.S. beef -- was rushed and tightly controlled by the relevant U.S. authorities.
In response, Hu said besides the slaughterhouses, the delegation also checked several ranches, cattle feed manufacturers and carcass processing plants.
Members of the delegation, who had different fields of expertise, pointed out problems on the spot and discussed them with the U.S. authorities, Hu added.
Moreover, the minister said, the delegation asked for a suspension of imports from a Kansas-based slaughterhouse where an oversight in its operational procedure for removing cattle tonsils was discovered.
Two other DPP lawmakers, Chen Ming-wen and Gao Jyh-peng, questioned the delegation's decision to announce its conclusions at a press conference upon arrival in Taiwan without detailing the findings to the public.
Hu, however, said the press conference was intended to deliver an overall report on the 23-day visit to the public. Some of the details have yet to be discussed with experts, the official noted.
Gao also asked if it was concluded at an upcoming June meeting of experts that U.S. beef was unsafe to eat, would it be possible to ban such imports or recall them?
The COA will follow relevant regulations under the Taiwan-U.S. beef protocol, Hu answered.
Meanwhile, Watson Sung, head of the delegation, again reassured the public about the safety of U.S. beef at a separate press conference held by the ruling Kuomintang caucus earlier in the day.
The U.S. Consumers Union has not suggested avoiding U.S. beef, Sung said.
Taiwan sends a delegation to inspect U.S. slaughterhouses on a routine basis each year. This year's trip was pushed forward due to a confirmed case of mad cow disease in California in late April.
(By Chen Wei-ting and Kendra Lin)