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Yaung warns Ma against drastic action on beef issue

The China Post news staff--It would be an inappropriate and unwise practice if President Ma Ying-jeou takes drastic action to allow imports of beef products containing ractopamine from the U.S. regardless of strong domestic opposition and as there is no public consensus on whether the leanness-enhancing drug is harmful to human health, Yaung Chi-liang (楊志良), former minister of the Department of Health, warned yesterday.

Yaung, who in his capacity as Department of Health minister announced the imports of ractopamine-free beef products from the U.S. in October 2009, issued the warning when asked by reporters to comment on the controversial ractopamine issue during a break of the third technical consultative conference on the issue.

The former health minister said that the complicated ractopamine issue has become a political issue that should be dealt with carefully.

At the moment, relevant experts have shared polarized views concerning whether consuming beef from cattle fed with ractopamine would undermine human health. Some experts have maintained that the drug is detrimental to human health, and stress that they might agree to lift the ban on imports of ractopamine-fed beef and other meat products from abroad if there is a study proving that ractopamine is not harmful to human health.

On another front, some experts said that hundreds of millions of American people have eaten beef products over the long term, but there haven't been any cases reported that eating meat products containing a small amount of ractopamine would threaten human health. Accordingly, such experts asked those who take opposite views to offer evidence showing the leanness-enhancing drug may be harmful to humans.

Accordingly, Yaung said that the ractopamine issue can hardly be settled based on professionalism, as it's difficult to tell which one of the said camps is right and which is wrong.

“The ractopamine issue has become a political one and the government should deal with it cautiously. If President Ma bows to the pressure from the U.S. and drastically drops the ban on imports of ractopamine-containing beef products, the government will surely pay the price for the inappropriate practice,” Yaung told reporters.

Local livestock farmers and lawmakers are strongly against easing the ractopamine ban, citing potential health risks to people and animals. The opposition has been fueled by the fact that health officials in Kaohsiung, Taipei and other cities have already found cases of beef containing ractopamine for sale and consumption.

But the government is eager to resolve a dispute that is seen as a stumbling block to reopening talks with the U.S. with the signing of a trade and investment framework agreement (TIFA).

Lawmakers Raise 7 Amendments to Food Sanitation Regulations

On another front, lawmakers of the ruling and opposition parties have come up with seven amendments regarding food sanitation, requesting the legislating of clear-cut regulations to control imports of ractopamine and other similar drugs, as well as meat from animals fed with these drugs.

Among them, the draft amendment raised by the legislative caucus of the People First Party calls for allowable levels of pesticide or drugs not to be higher than figures set by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a body set up by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization.

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 Civic groups sue officials over meat leanness residue 
Members of an anti-U.S beef imports alliance gather in front of the Council of Agriculture in Taipei, yesterday, holding posters and banners in a show of their strong opposition to easing the ban on importing beef products from animals fed ractopamine from the U.S.

(CNA)

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