American Shipper

Taiwan amends beef import rules

Taiwan amends beef import rules

   Taiwan's Legislative Yuan on Monday passed an amendment to its food sanitation law that effectively bans the import of all ground beef and offal from the United States and other countries that have experienced cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or 'mad cow' disease.

   Taiwan's ban specifically covers imports of cattle skulls, brains, eyes, spinal cords, offals and ground beef for a period of 10 years from the exporting country's most recent BSE case. Of the three BSE cases identified by the United States, the latest was found on March 15, 2006.

   The Obama administration protested the Taiwan's decision to amend its Food Sanitation Act soon after the two governments reached an agreement to expand U.S. beef trade to Taiwan.

   'The decision by Taiwan authorities to place domestic politics over science raises serious concerns,' said Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis and Jim Miller, the Department of Agriculture's undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services, in a statement. 'This action will also undermine Taiwan's credibility as a responsible trading partner and will make it more challenging for us to conclude future agreements to expand and strengthen bilateral trade and economic ties.'

   U.S. beef exporters also protested the Taiwanese legislative action.


   'Before expanding beef trade with the United States in October of last year, Taiwan's best scientists determined the safety of U.S. beef through a thorough and extensive risk assessment,' said U.S. Meat Export Federation President and Chief Executive Officer Philip Seng. 'That effort has now been largely cast aside, as this policy shows no regard for OIE (World Organization for Animal Health) guidelines or the controlled risk status held by both the United States and Taiwan with regard to BSE.'

   However, the federation noted that Taiwan's legislature did not prohibit imports of boneless and bone-in muscle cuts from U.S. cattle under 30 months of age. Since the new beef trade protocol between the United States and Taiwan was adopted in October, the federation said suppliers from the United States have voluntarily excluded ground beef and offal, limiting their shipments to under-30-month muscle cuts.

   'While we now face nonscientific trade barriers that will hamper our ability to expand the range of U.S. products in this market over the long term, we want to assure consumers in Taiwan that we will continue to provide them with safe, high-quality U.S. beef,' Seng said.

   Through October, Taiwan was the sixth-largest value market for U.S. beef exports at $114.3 million, a 6 percent increase over the same period in 2008. When year-end totals are available, the federation said exports to Taiwan are expected to surpass the all-time record of $128 million set in 2008. On a value basis, the United States is Taiwan's largest beef supplier with a 40 percent share of the imported beef market, the federation said.