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Taiwan says no to US beef

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Feb 10, 2005
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Southern Manitoba
COA opposes lifting ban on U.S. beef

The China Post staff

The Council of Agricultural Affairs (COA) said yesterday that they would like to see the government maintain its ban on U.S. beef imports.

Council member Li Jin-lung was invited by the Economics and Resources Committee of the Legislative Yuan yesterday to report on the status of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in U.S. cattle and give his recommendations concerning the American beef import ban.

Li noted that such an issue usually falls under the jurisdiction of the Health Bureau of the Executive Yuan which may be considering lifting the ban. The council, however, has not agreed on relaxing the prohibition, he said.

Taiwan Solidarity Union legislator and committee member Lai Hsing-yuan also recommended that the Executive Yuan keep the ban in order to avoid contaminating local livestock with BSE. She said she wants to help the agricultural council resist efforts in eliminating the prohibition.

Taiwan instituted the ban late December, 2003, along with other Asian nations including Japan which has previously been the largest market for U.S. exported beef. The ban came after a cow had been diagnosed with BSE, popularly known as "mad-cow disease," in Washington State.

Taiwan's ban was instituted to last for seven years. In October, 2004, however, according to prior news reports, a U.S. Department of Agriculture official announced that Taiwan's government was considering relaxing the ban in the near future.

They said that Taiwanese health officials had traveled to the U.S. to conduct on-site inspections of safeguards implemented to prevent BSE and that the review was nearly complete with the final hurdles towards abolishing the ban being jumped.

BSE has been seen as a Health Bureau issue as they typically handle food-related health issues, although the COA typically makes recommendations concerning imports of livestock and related products.

The ban affects the movement of livestock as well as all products containing beef or other cow parts such as beef powder, tallow, animal feed, and even some cosmetics which use bovine placenta.

It initially imposed fines from NT$30,000 to NT$150,000 for touting American beef or selling it under any fraudulent means. American beef had been estimated to have constituted 20 percent of the Taiwan market before the discovery of BSE in the U.S. cattle.

BSE was first discovered in the U.K. and is believed to have started from the practice of giving cows feed which contains parts of spinal columns of other cows. It is also linked with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), a variant that has been found in humans. The vCJD variant, which lays waste to brain matter, is fatal and, as of yet, incurable.

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