Taiwan seizes imported U.S. beef shipment for excess ractopamine

06/08/2021 05:03 PM
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Photo courtesy of the FDA
Photo courtesy of the FDA

Taipei, June 8 (CNA) A shipment of beef imported from the United States was recently seized at Taiwan's border after it was found to contain excess levels of the controversial feed additive ractopamine, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Tuesday.

The shipment of 1,179.8 kilograms of boneless beef from National Beef Packing Co. in the U.S. was tested on May 14 and found to contain ractopamine residues at a concentration of 0.02 parts per million, higher than the maximum permissible level of 0.01 ppm, the FDA said.

According to the FDA, confiscated beef is either returned to its country of origin or destroyed.

The shipment of U.S. beef was the first in nearly three years the FDA has found to contain excessive ractopamine levels, and will result in the importer, New Taipei-based Yu-Ho Food, being flagged for more frequent inspections, said FDA division chief Chen Ching-yu (陳慶裕).

Although Taiwan has allowed imports of U.S. beef containing trace amounts of ractopamine since 2012, the leanness enhancing drug remains controversial, and its use is still prohibited among local farmers.

Taiwan also opened its market to U.S. pork containing limited levels of ractopamine on Jan. 1, a move the government believes will facilitate closer ties with the U.S., but which critics say creates health risks for Taiwanese consumers.

Meanwhile, the FDA said that fresh avocados imported from the U.S. by Costco Taiwan were recently seized for the sixth time in under half a year because of higher than permitted levels of the heavy metal cadmium.

The shipment of 2,970 kg of Index Fresh avocadoes from California was found during testing on May 15 to contain 0.07 mg/kg of cadmium, higher than the maximum permissible level of 0.05 mg/kg, according to the FDA.

Due to the repeated violations, the FDA has been carrying out batch-by-batch inspections of avocadoes imported by Costco since May, and required the company to devise a plan to resolve the issue, which it submitted last week, Chen said.

In the report, the company said the cadmium residues found in the avocadoes might be related to external environmental factors in the region in which they are grown, Chen said.

In response, the FDA ordered the company to improve its supplier management procedures, and warned that it could ban the retailer from importing American avocadoes if the violations continue, Chen said.

The imported beef and avocadoes were two of 17 products included in the FDA's weekly report on imported shipments confiscated for food safety violations.

Other products seized included a 37,902 kg shipment of black sesame seeds from India, 1,152 kg of blueberries from the U.S., and 150 kg of strawberries from Japan, all for excessive levels of various pesticides, according to the FDA.

According to Taiwan's Regulations of Inspection of Imported Foods and Related Products, border authorities are required to conduct random inspections on 2-10 percent of food shipments arriving in the country.

Products which fail inspection are placed under "reinforced" guidelines, which require the inspection rate to be increased to 20-50 percent.

(By Chiang Hui-chun and Matthew Mazzetta)

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