Taipei, May 2 (CNA) A Taiwanese delegation will leave for the United States this weekend to inspect the meat processing operations of slaughterhouses there, amid an ongoing dispute over imports of U.S. beef, a Council of Agriculture official said Wednesday.
The delegation will inspect nine slaughterhouses along with feed suppliers and laboratories to ensure the safety of U.S. beef imported to Taiwan after the U.S. confirmed a case of mad cow disease on April 24, Agriculture Minister Chen Bao-ji said at a legislative committee hearing.
The inspection will also assess cattle ranches' feed controls and whether specified risk materials in American beef, such as brains and spinal cords, are removed, Chen said.
Meat produced by the nine slaughterhouses to be inspected accounted for about 78 percent of the American beef sold to Taiwan.
Kuomintang Legislator Yang Chiung-ying questioned why the visit was not made immediately after the U.S. confirmed the case of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the fourth to occur in the U.S. since 2003.
Chen said the council tried to contact American authorities after the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) announced the mad cow case, but only received a reply and an itinerary planned by the U.S on Wednesday morning.
The delegation will consist of four to six officials from the Council of Agriculture and Department of Health, he said.
Taipei and Washington have been at odds over Taiwan's treatment of American beef.
The U.S. has lobbied Taiwan to ease restrictions on U.S. beef imposed after past mad cow disease cases, and, more recently, has asked Taiwan to lift its ban on beef containing residues of the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine.
Largely because of the dispute, trade talks under the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement have been shelved since 2007.
BSE is fatal in cows, and eating tainted meat could cause a fatal brain disease in humans known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
(By Tang Hsiao-tien and Nell Shen)