DPP accuses DOH, President Ma of inaction over mad cow disease

Friday, April 27, 2012
By Enru Lin ,The China Post

The Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) legislative caucus yesterday criticized President Ma Ying-jeou and the Department of Health (DOH, 衛生署) for alleged inaction in the wake of the latest U.S. case of mad cow disease.

On Wednesday, a presidential spokesman announced that Ma directed the DOH and Council of Agriculture to handle “the situation.”At the Legislative Yuan yesterday, Health Minister Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) announced that Taiwan won't halt U.S. beef imports “for the time being ... as the infected meat did not enter the U.S. food supply and preliminary reports show that the infection is an isolated case.”

The DPP legislative caucus responded yesterday by saying that “Ma has done absolutely nothing” and the DOH “has not made any movements.”

Ma did nothing after the U.S. report, while neighboring nations Japan and South Korea responded and managed the situation immediately — even requesting that retailers pull U.S. beef off the shelves, according to Director-General Pan Men-an (潘孟安) of the DPP caucus.

DPP Legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) blasted the Cabinet for a similarly lackadaisical response.

“Ignoring the people's health, the DOH has not made any movements,” said Chen.

Chen said that U.S. cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) — or mad-cow disease — triggered instant reactions from the then-ruling DPP administration in 2003 and 2005.

The DPP administration immediately ended all U.S. beef imports, lifting them only when they could guarantee an all-clear, said Chen.

The caucus called for the central administration to enforce World Trade Organization (WTO) guidelines on beef with suspect origins.

WTO guidelines recommend deshelving and banning beef imports from countries with confirmed cases of mad cow disease, according to the DPP.

DOH Lacks Professional Input: Physician

The DOH's decision to continue U.S. beef imports was made without “professional” input, said Chen Shun-sheng (陳順勝), neurologist and vice superintendent of the Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital (長庚醫院).

Chen said yesterday that the DOH should not declare such decisions “hastily.”

The incidence of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease — caused by the consumption of beef from cattle with mad cow disease — in Taiwan has been on the rise, he said.

Taiwan's rate of incidence had been just 0.6 percent, but has shot up to 1.2 percent each year for the past three years. Chen said he “does not rule out” the possibility that the doubled rate “has something to do with U.S. beef imports.”

Meanwhile, some 10 civic groups under the Food Safety Association (FSA, 全國食物安全聯盟) rallied at the Presidential Office to protest the “helplessness” of the government and demand a suspension of U.S. beef imports.

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