U.S. beef imports eased
Saturday, October 24, 2009
The China Post news staff
Despite strong opposition from lawmakers and consumer organizations, the government
announced yesterday the relaxation of import restrictions on U.S. beef products, allowing entry of
boneless items that contain no specified risk materials (SRMs) and from cattle younger than 30
months old, effective from Nov. 10.
Vice Minister Hsiao Mei-ling of the Department of Health (DOH), and Hsu Tien-lai, chief of the
Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine under the Council of Agriculture
(COA), said at a news conference that the scope of Taiwan's opening to U.S. beef imports is on par
with South Korea's.
Thirty other countries allow the importation of U.S. beef from cattle older than 30 months, Hsiao
noted. Only beef without SRMs, which include skulls, backbones, brain matter and certain
intestine parts and organs, will be allowed into Taiwan, he stressed.
Both Hsiao and Hsu stressed that adequate product inspection and other measures will be
adopted to ensure the health and safety of consumers here. They made the remarks after Taiwan
and the United States clinched a deal Thursday in Washington, D.C. to lift a partial ban on U.S.
At present, Taiwan only allows imports of U.S. boneless beef that contain no SRMs and from cattle
younger than 30 months. Under the terms of the new accord, U.S. bone-in beef, ground beef,
intestines and processed beef that have not been contaminated with SRMs will also be allowed to
To ensure the safety of U.S. bone-in beef, the DOH has twice sent experts to the United States,
where they made on-the-spot risk assessments of the quality of the product, Hsu noted. Hsu said
he believes that U.S. beef is free from health risks, and its importation is not likely to cause
contagious diseases in Taiwan's livestock industry or squeeze local beef producers.
"The move is not expected to impact on the local beef industry, given that the market for local and
foreign beef is well segmented in Taiwan," Hsu said. Taiwan produces some 6,000 metric tons of
beef every year, far less than the imported amount of around 73,000 metric tons per year, he
Meanwhile, DOH officials said that a Taiwanese importer may submit an application to import
T-bone steaks from the United States as early as mid-November.
Managers at some wholesale and discount stores said the newly opened beef products will hit
shelves in about two weeks' time at the earliest. The price tags will be cheaper than prices of
existing products, they added.Stringent Inspection
Defusing widespread opposition to the liberalization move, Premier Wu Den-yih emphasized that
the government respects the expertise and professional judgments on the beef trade matter. He
denied the allegation that the government could have placed "political considerations" over the
opinions of experts when deciding to open the market wider to U.S. beef imports.
While the U.S. authorities will make stringent inspections over beef products destined for the
market, he said, the DOH and other agencies here will take the same strict inspection standards as
in the U.S., the EU nations or Korea.
There is no reason to prohibit the entry of products meeting safety standards, Wu added. DOH
Minister Yaung Chih-liang said the safety inspection measures and standards here are actually
more rigorous than in most countries.
Taiwan first banned U.S. beef in 2003 after a case of mad cow disease was confirmed in the U.S.
The ban was once lifted in April 2005 to allow imports of U.S. de-boned beef from cattle under 30
But the government re-imposed the ban two months later when a second mad cow case was
detected in the United States. In January 2006, Taiwan partially lifted the ban to allow U.S.
boneless beef from cattle younger than 30 months.
When asked about whether the new market-opening measures to U.S. beef will also be applicable
to Canadian beef, Yaung said it will depend on bilateral negotiations in the future.
Yaung revealed that Canada's top representative to Taiwan paid him a visit yesterday morning.
"We did touch on beef trade issues, but did not come to any conclusions in our discussion," Yaung
said, declining to disclose details of their conversation.
In June 2007, Taiwan also opened its market to Canadian beef and beef products under the same
conditions as those imposed on U.S. products.