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Pork off the ractopamine menu: COA chief

Minister of the Council of Agriculture (COA, 農委會主委) Chen Bao-ji (陳保基) said yesterday that ractopamine usage will remain banned in both domestic and imported pork products, adding that the COA will only allow residue of the drug in beef according to international standards.

Chen said that the separation of ractopamine levels in beef and pork will be discussed in the upcoming extraordinary legislative session. The separation principle may be passed as a supplementary resolution in the Legislative Yuan.

The Department of Health (DOH, 衛生署) under the Executive Yuan (行政院) will only allow and set limits of ractopamine residue in beef, Chen maintained, adding that the standard will not be extended to pork, effectively maintaining the ban on ractopamine-containing pork. Furthermore, Chen said, the DOH does not have immediate plans to set safety standards for ractopamine residue in bovine offal.

Chen explained that the Council of Agriculture will set standards regarding leanness-enhancing drug residue for domestic cattle raisers. In addition to ractopamine, other drugs — permitted in accordance with international standards — will also be made available to cattle farmers; however, leanness-enhancing drugs will not be made available to pig farmers, Chen said.

The minister stressed that cattle raisers must apply to the COA to use leanness-enhancing drugs, and that the council will monitor the drugs' usage once applications have been approved. Chen also stated that most cattle raisers in Taiwan do not use leanness-enhancing drugs.

Some members of the Republic of China Swine Association (中華民國養豬協會) have called on the government to lift the ban on ractopamine usage in pork products. In response, Chen reiterated that ractopamine will remain banned in both domestic and imported pork products, adding that the government will issue an executive order to ban the drug's use in pork — according to the sanitary and phytosanitary measures (動植物防疫檢疫協定) stipulated by the World Trade Organization (世貿組織) — due to the fact that Taiwanese consumption of pork is more than seven times than that of beef.

The minister stated that the COA will conduct inspections of pig farms to ensure that leanness-enhancing drugs are not used. According to inspections conducted since February, Chen said, the council has not found any violations of the regulation.

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