Taipei, Aug. 15 (CNA) Taiwan announced Wednesday a preview of official notice of allowable levels of ractopamine in beef imports and of requirements for labeling of product origin, which could open the country's doors to imported beef containing the leanness-enhancing drug next month at the earliest.
The preview is aimed at allowing members of the public to express their opinions on the measures, Kang Jaw-jou, director-general of the Department of Health's Food and Drug Administration, said at a news conference.
The new regulations are expected to take effect by mid-September, Kang said.
The department has capped the maximum residue limit for ractopamine in beef at 10 parts per billion (ppb), he said, adding that within the next 14 days, opinions from the public can be submitted, which he said "will be taken into consideration" by the department.
He did not rule out the possibility of re-evaluating the standard for ractopamine residue, but admitted that "the chances are slim."
The government made a thorough evaluation and solicited professional opinions on the issue before announcing the lifting of its ban on the leanness-enhancing drug used as a livestock feed additive in some countries, he added.
Countries such as Japan and South Korea have also set 10 ppb residue standards for their beef imports, Kang added.
The public can also express views on regulations related to the labeling of the origin of beef imports within the following week, Kang added.
Under the new regulations, places serving beef, including restaurants and food stands, must clearly label the origin of the beef they are using, according to the department.
Packaged foods such as instant noodles and beef jerky, as well as loose beef products, should also be labeled with point of origin, it added.
After official notice of the new regulations are formally announced, Kang said, the new measures are expected to come into force by mid-September.
The department will step up inspections of beef products on the market and in restaurants serving beef in the months following the announcement of the official notice, Kang said.
"We aim to check 30,000 restaurants," he added.
Those who do not label the origin of beef products can face fines of between NT$30,000 (US$1,000) and NT$150,000, according to the department. Fines of between NT$40,000 and NT$200,000 could be imposed on those who use counterfeit labeling, it said.
Violators of the 10 ppb residue standard could face fines of between NT$60,000 and NT$6 million, the department said.
The government will also continue border inspections on every shipment of beef imported into Taiwan to ensure food safety, Kang said.
Among the countries that allow the use of ractopamine in beef, only the United States and Canada export to Taiwan, Kang noted.
The announcement of the new regulations came after the Legislature passed amendments to the Act Governing Food Sanitation in late July, opening Taiwan's doors to imports of beef containing traces of ractopamine, which is currently banned in the country.
The government decided in March to conditionally ease the ban, based on the principles of specifying a safe level of ractopamine, issuing separate permits for beef and pork imports, mandating the labeling of beef imports and excluding imports of beef organs.
Washington regards Taiwan's ractopamine ban as a trade barrier and has implied that a resumption of bilateral talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) rests on the beef issue.
The TIFA was signed in 1994 as a framework for Taiwan-U.S. dialogue on trade-related issues in the absence of diplomatic ties, but talks have been suspended since 2007, mainly because of the U.S. beef controversy.
(By Elaine Hou)