KMT to propose legislation against ractopamine in imported pork

KMT caucus whip Lin Yi-hua (second left) and three of her fellow lawmakers. CNA photo Sept. 9, 2020

TAIPEI (CNA) — The legislative caucus of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) said Wednesday that it will introduce a bill aimed at banning the importation of pork containing residues of the livestock drug ractopamine, in a bid to prevent implementation of a recent government decision to allow such imports from the United States.

At a press conference, KMT caucus whip Lin Yi-hua (林奕華) said her party will put forth an amendment to Article 15 of the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation to mandate zero ractopamine and other similar muscle enhancing drugs, known as beta agonists, in domestic and imported pork.

The KMT will also propose law amendments that would allow for clear labeling of imported pork, listing the ractopamine content, and for such products to be kept off the menu for school meals in favor of domestic products, Lin said.

Currently, the Schools Health Act states that schools “shall give priority to” local agricultural products, and while it specifically prohibits the use of genetically modified ingredients, it makes no mention of ractopamine.

Lin’s comments followed a government decision announced by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Aug. 28 to set standards for ractopamine residues in imported pork and to allow imports of U.S. beef from cattle over 30 months old, with effect from Jan. 1, 2021.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Lin said the KMT will not seek to amend the section of the food safety act that allows the government to set the maximum residue limits for leanness enhancing drugs in beef.

The KMT does not want to damage Taiwan’s trade relations or force the government to fully retract its new policy on imported meat, she said.

In response to the KMT’s stance on the meat import issue, Cheng Yun-Peng (鄭運鵬), secretary-general of the governing Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP’s) legislative caucus, said there is no need to amend the School Health Act, since the government has already issued a directive to schools to serve only domestic meat products.

In Taiwan, the use of the feed additive ractopamine is prohibited in livestock farming.

Regarding the KMT’s proposal for zero ractopamine in imported pork, Cheng said that was not in line with international standards.

Taiwan’s government already has in place strict standards, and it mandates proper labeling of products, Cheng said.

“That should be enough to allow consumers to judge and decide on their own,” he said.

Meanwhile, KMT Culture and Communications Committee Chairwoman Wang Yu-min (王育敏) said Wednesday the party will begin collecting signatures Saturday in all 22 municipalities in a bid to hold a national referendum on the importation of pork with detectable levels of ractopamine.

The decision to ease restrictions on U.S. pork and beef imports is intended to satisfy a U.S. condition for beginning negotiations on an eventual bilateral trade deal. The restrictions have been labeled as trade barriers in multiple reports by the U.S. Trade Representative.

During the previous administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the KMT, Taiwan’s government sought to lift the restrictions, as it pursued a trade agreement with the U.S., but the proposal was vigorously opposed by the DPP, which resisted any concessions on the issue.