Clarification sought on Taiwanese beef import tests

by Bryan Salvage
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DENVER – The US government is holding talks with the government of Taiwan to clarify that nation’s recent decision to begin testing beef imports for the growth promotant ractopamine hydrochloride. Although Taiwan has had a zero-tolerance policy in place for several years against the use of ractopamine hydrochloride, Taiwan's Food and Drug Administration began testing Jan. 1, 2011, for versions of this compound in imported beef.

Use of ractopamine hydrochloride is recognized by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) as well as the US Food and Drug Administration as a safe feed ingredient that helps livestock grow more efficiently and increase the proportion of lean meat to fat.

Ractopamine is currently approved by regulatory authorities in 26 countries (including the US, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, South Korea and others) for its safe use in human food and is under review in others.

Taiwan is sampling at ports of entry, cold storage facilities and retail outlets. Taiwan's FDA said it found ractopamine hydrochloride residues in samples of US beef. As a result of the Taiwan government's decision to conduct the testing, it has created uncertainty in the market and caused a slowdown in beef exports to Taiwan.

During the first 11 months of 2010, the US exported 35,228 metric tons (77.7 million lbs.) of beef valued at $192.7 million, increases of 45% in volume and 54% in value over 2009. The US also exported 27,693 metric tons (61.1 million lbs.) of pork valued at $50.5 million, a decline of 30% in volume and 19% in value from the prior year.
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