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September 26, 2017

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Venison, veganism very likely vogue in food scares

It doesn't take a psychic or a poll master to predict this — veganism will be increasingly in vogue in Taiwan. The chief promoter of this new diet trend is Taiwan's incompetent government, which has done more than any religious group or animal activist can hope to do in keeping people from meat.

While the belated announcement of a H5N2 avian flu outbreak caused worries about Taiwan eggs and chickens — which by the way did not have to be the case if the Council of Agriculture (COA) had handled inspections and flu verification properly — U.S. beef products sold in Taiwan were found to contain residue of the currently banned leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine. Even as the nation is debating on whether to ease the ractopamine ban to allow U.S. beef imports, beef imported from Australia and New Zealand were now tested positive for banned growth drugs, some even more toxic than ractopamine. Meanwhile, these drugs were also found in some domestic pork products.

That leaves us with fish, vegetables or other more exotic ingredients. Venison anybody?

The most worrying aspect of the ongoing food controversy is not the discovery of tainted products, which are only a fraction of the total, but the manner the government handled these cases. By either covering up, or at least as government officials admitted, belatedly announcing a H5N2 outbreak, the COA increased the difficulty of containing the situation (by delaying the destruction of ill chickens). It also severely damaged public confidence in Taiwan poultry. H5N2 is believed to be noncontagious to humans, so had the COA been more straightforward, the public scare could have been avoided and minimized.

Now the reasonable questions are: what have we been eating all along? How many tainted products have we taken before ractopamine became a public concern? The discovery of growth drugs in foreign beef imports now point to Taiwanese inspectors' failure to keep them out of the country.

Protecting the people's health is one of the government's most important duties. The government must make sure to keep all banned products off shelves and to explain to the public the complicated but necessary information on food additives and food quarantine.

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