WASHINGTON – Late last week a bipartisan group of Congressional leaders called on Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou in a letter to end his country’s unscientific restriction on U.S. beef exports, the American Meat Institute relays.

Taiwan began refusing US beef shipments in January that contained trace amounts of ractopamine, a widely used feed ingredient that helps produce lean meat. Ractopamine is approved for safe use in animal feed in 26 countries, including the US.

Scientific evidence clearly demonstrates the safety of U.S. beef and that “there is no food-safety justification for these actions,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and House Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-Mich.) reaffirmed in the letter.

“We urge you to take prompt corrective measures to restore trade and avoid further damage to our bilateral trade relations,” they wrote

In 2007 Taiwan’s Department of Health notified the World Trade Organization that it intended to establish a maximum residue level (MRL) for ractopamine in cattle and swine. The trace amounts of ractopamine found last month on US beef shipments were well below the MRL recommended by the Codex scientific committee and Taiwan’s own government agencies, and posed no threat to human health.

“Taiwan authorities also have staged press conferences and public announcements that only exacerbated the problem and contributed to the inaccurate impression that the positive tests posed any kind of food safety risk,” the letter notes.

The Congressional leaders also warned that Taiwan’s scientifically unjustified policy on ractopamine is having negative consequences on another major US pork exports, all while Taiwan’s health authorities recognize that trace residues of ractopamine in both pork and beef do not pose risks to human health.

“The resolution of the ractopamine matter is critical to avoid serious negative consequences for our trade and broader bilateral relationship and to begin to restore the confidence necessary to permit resumption of the possibility of US-Taiwan Trade and Investment Framework Agreement discussions,” the letter concluded.

In 2010, Taiwan shattered its previous record for US beef and beef variety export value by more than 50%, reaching $216.3 million.