Taiwan elected its first female head of state Saturday (Jan. 16), and based on her comments in a debate last month, Tsai Ing-wen could be prepared to ease her country’s stance on the import of U.S.-produced pork fed with an additive other candidates opposed.
During several years it was banned in Taiwan for use in beef cattle and swine, ractopamine, a chemical compound used to promote growth and leanness, could not be contained in either pork or beef (mainly steak) from the U.S. The ban on imports of ractopamine-enhanced beef was raised in 2012, and the continuing ban on the import of pork containing it was a major issue in the just-completed election campaign.
Of the three candidates for president, only pro-independence candidate Tsai Ing-wen suggested she’d favor reviewing (and possibly limiting or lifting) the ractopamine-in-ban “compare[d] with Japan and Korea’s experience.” Both those countries have, since 2012, had standards called Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) that effectively prohibit imports of beef or pork with above-the-maximum amounts of ractopamine residue.
An excellent explanation of what ractopamine is and how it works is available on the American Institute in Taiwan web site. It’s introduction notes that: “Ractopamine hydrochloride is a feed ingredient that helps increase the animals’ ability to efficiently turn what they eat into lean muscle rather than fat. This leads to reduced feed demand, less waste and higher quality and more affordable meat for consumers. The United States has approved the use of ractopamine in cattle since 2003. Major beef producing or importing countries, including Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Canada and many others, have also determined that meat from animals fed ractopamine is safe for human consumption.
Ractopamine is sold under the brand name Optaflexx for use with cattle and Paylean for use with pigs.”
In her debate comments, Tsai Ing-wen noted that, “To ensure food safety, the source of all food should be made clear and rigorous examinations should be required.” Whether or not that statement – that concept – will move from campaign rhetoric to an altering of Taiwan’s position relative to ractopamine in imported pork remains to be seen. But one thing’s for sure: There is a better chance the ban will be reduced or lifted under her presidency than would have been the case if either of her opponents were elected.