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Inspections begin on labeling of beef origin

TAIPEI -- Health officials began visiting traditional markets, restaurants and supermarkets around Taiwan yesterday to check that beef products are clearly labeled with their country of origin, on the first day of implementation of the compulsory measure.

The government will use the two-month nationwide inspection operation to raise awareness about the new policy, according to officials of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The labeling policy was adopted in parallel with the lifting of a ban on U.S. beef containing traces of the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine, with the goal of allowing consumers to decide for themselves whether to buy tainted beef.

The maximum allowable residue level of the drug set by the government is 10 parts per billion.

Pan Jyh-quan, director of the FDA's Northern Center for Regional Administration, said that since the ban was officially lifted Tuesday, the FDA has received three applications to import U.S. beef, for a total of 39 metric tons.

Test results on the newest shipments were expected to be made available in three days, he said.

From Sept. 12, all beef retailers, as well as restaurants and food vendors that use beef as an ingredient, are required to label the source of their beef.

The measure will be expanded to cover packaged food containing beef, such as beef jerky and instant noodles, from Sept. 20.

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A staff member posts a sign indicating the origins of a restaurant's beef products. A labeling policy applicable to all beef products sold at supermarkets, traditional retail outlets, restaurants, fast food stores, night market stands, and retail food stores became effective yesterday. (CNA)

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