Food company I-mei GM says US pork may be 'necessary evil'

TAIPEI, Taiwan- I-mei Foods Co. General Manager Kao Chih-ming on Tuesday said that for Taiwan, lifting the ban on US pork products containing ractopamine "may be a necessary evil."

The current ban on US pork containing ractopamine has emerged as a key stumbling block in Taiwan's bid to join the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a large trade bloc with harmonized regulations.

Last weekend, the presidential candidates were asked to declare their views on lifting the import ban at the first televised debate.

Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen, in what was seen as an about-face from past statements, appeared to favour a conditional acceptance of US pork containing ractopamine.

Tsai said she would use Japan and Korea as a reference when setting Taiwan's limits. The two neighbouring countries currently allow the import of US pork products that comply with a maximum residue level.

On Tuesday, the general manager of I-mei released a statement on the food company's website that said lifting the import ban "may be a necessary evil in the process of internationalization."

In a signed statement, Kao urged a "rational approach to US pork," indicating that ractopamine and similar additives were already used by some businesses in the domestic pork industry.

So far, the US pork controversy has focused solely on whether ractopamine is safe and permissible in pork products. In reality, ractopamine is only one among over 40 types of beta-adrenergic agonists, he said.

"Unless in all of Taiwan there is not one pig farm that uses ractopamine or any other beta-adrenergic agonist, all we can do is strictly require clear labeling and then open up to (US pork) imports," he wrote.

Kao's statement was part of a series of notices addressed to presidential and legislative candidates calling on them to address food safety issues in Taiwan.

The issue of US pork and ractopamine surfaced in the first 2016 presidential election debate, a sign that candidate views on the issue could have an impact on voters, he wrote.

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