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Taiwan mulling imports of several kinds of U.S. beef parts

2015/02/11 17:30:00

Economy Minister John Deng (鄧振中). CNA photo Feb. 11, 2015

Taipei, Feb. 11 (CNA) Economy Minister John Deng (鄧振中) said Wednesday that Taiwan may ease restrictions on imports of American beef amid reports that it will allow in six kinds of beef parts to make it easier to join the U.S.-led Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade bloc.

Deng, who is in Washington, D.C., for a visit, told a CNA reporter in Taipei by phone that the six types of beef under consideration -- bone marrow, blood vessels, head meat, cheek meat, weasand and tallow -- are not internal organs and therefore not banned by law.

But businessmen have not been willing to import these beef parts for fear of violating the law because the cuts have not been defined and classified clearly enough under the law, he said.

Deng stressed that the government will not open Taiwan to beef internal organs from the U.S. at the expense of public health or in contravention of laws passed by the Legislature

Media reports in Taipei have said that the Council of Agriculture (COA) reeently invited experts to conduct a risk assessment on opening Taiwan to the six types of beef parts from cattle under 30 months old from the United States and Canada.

Deng told CNA that he sent related information on the issue to the Legislature to seek the body's support before his visit to the United States.

Asked if Taiwan will open its market imports of beef internal organs from the U.S. in exchange for Taiwan's entry into the TPP, Deng said Taiwan currently bans such imports under existing laws.

"If the United States expresses concerns, I will explain the law to them," he said.

Even if the U.S. asked Taiwan to open its market to beef internal organs, "we cannot do so," Deng said, but if an item is not classified as an internal organ and has not been legally banned, "it would be unreasonable" for Taiwan not to address the issue.

According to the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation, Taiwan bans the import of beef internal organs from countries that have reported cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, over the past decade, according to the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

Article 15 of the act states that Taiwan bans the import of skulls, brains, eyes, spinal marrow, ground beef, viscera and other related products from non-epidemic areas and countries that had bovine spongiform encephalopathy or new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease cases in the past ten years.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Chen Bao-ji (陳保基) said that as far as he knew, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) listed the BSE risk status of the United States as negligible in 2013.

This means that its beef can be safely exported regardless of the age of the cow or the cut, according to ministry officials.

Chen reaffirmed that opening Taiwan's market to the six types of beef from the United States would have little impact on Taiwan's livestock industry, but the Ministry of Health and Welfare would still have to assess any risks to food safety.

(By Rita Cheng, Huang Chiao-wen, Yang Shu-min and Lilian Wu)
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