China will step up inspections to enforce its ban on meat imports from Taiwan, after the self-ruled island’s decision to allow imports of US pork containing ractopamine took effect, a mainland government spokeswoman said.
At a press conference in Beijing on Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the Taiwan Affairs Office said meat and associated products from the island were already barred from entry to the mainland but the ractopamine issue increased the need for enforcement.
Ractopamine is approved in the United States and more than 20 other countries as a feed additive to reduce animals’ body fat and improve their growth. Taiwan’s decision to allow products containing it, which sparked protests, came into force on January 1.
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“China has long banned the use of ractopamine in its animal farms and prohibited the import of meat products with such agents,” the office’s spokeswoman Zhu Fenglian said. “To protect the safety of Chinese consumers and to prevent bird flu and other epidemics from spreading here, [we] will strictly bar Taiwan-produced meat products and shipments of such products from entry.”
Zhu was responding to a query about the mainland’s response to Taiwan allowing US pork containing the leanness agent.
Officially, the mainland stopped imports of Taiwanese meat in 2014. Inspections would need to be stepped up to prevent such products getting in, Zhu said.
“This will include checking parcels sent to China and belongings carried in by passengers at customs,” she said, adding that processed meat products included meat floss, pork jerky, meat condiments and seasoning.
Although it has remained a large importer of American pork, China has insisted on products not containing ractopamine, which has been linked to health hazards. The European Union, too, has banned meat produced using the agent.
Taiwan’s agriculture minister Chen Chi-chung said on Thursday that Taiwan produces about 800,000 tonnes of pork a year but exports only 4,000 tonnes of pork and processed pork products, meaning the mainland’s ban had a relatively small impact.
“Actually, we have never sold any freshly slaughtered pork to China,” he said.
But to impose a ban, Beijing needed to issue a document notifying Taipei via the World Trade Organization, he said.
Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, which charts its policy regarding the mainland, said in a statement that Taiwan, too, prohibits the use of ractopamine for its hogs and cattle.
“Hog farmers in Taiwan are barred from using ractopamine, but since late 2014, mainland China has unilaterally stopped importing our [processed pork] products on the ground that we have bird flu, and until now has yet to respond to our inquiry about the stoppage,” it said.
Taiwan had banned American pork containing ractopamine until this year, when it began permitting US pork with an internationally acceptable level of the agent.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who announced the lifting of the ban in August, said she did so because Taiwan relies on exports and needs to strike trade agreements. It aims to do so with the US, and the ban on American pork had been seen as an obstacle.
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