Civic groups to rally against government’s policy on US beef


TAIPEI–Around 1,000 protesters are expected to take to the streets of Taipei on April 1 to condemn the government for “fooling” the public over its food safety policy, organizers said yesterday.

The Homemakers United Foundation said it will mobilize more than 50 nongovernmental organizations (NGO) across the island to challenge the government’s move toward conditionally lifting a ban on imports of American beef that contain the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine.

“We chose to march on April Fools’ Day because what the government has promised us has proven to be a lie,” said foundation secretary-general Lu Mei luan.

Lu criticized the government for failing to guarantee public health, saying that despite the existing zero-tolerance policy toward ractopamine, meat products containing the drug could still be found on the market.

“If current preventive measures don’t work, how can the government further allow ractopamine in and leave land mines to explode on our dinner tables,” said Kao Ru-ping, secretary-general of the National Association for the Promotion of Community Universities.

The government based its new policy on four conditions — that it would allow a safe level of ractopamine in beef, separate the permits for importing beef and pork, require beef imports to be clearly labeled, and exclude imports of internal organs.

Lu and Kao said all protesters will dress in black and march in pure silence to express their sadness, and they threatened to hold another rally on May 20, the day President Ma Ying-jeou is sworn in for his second term, if the government does not maintain the ban on U.S. beef containing ractopamine.

The organizations also urged the government to allow NGOs like them to voice concerns at inter-ministerial meetings on the issue and make its food safety policy more transparent.