Taiwan has intensified checks on Australian beef imports after recent inspections by Taiwanese officials revealed the presence of growth drugs in samples allegedly from Australia and New Zealand.
A statement from the Food and Drug Administration of Taiwan said that beginning March 20, imports of beef products from Australia, the US, Canada, Panama and Nicaragua will be tested, consignment by consignment.
A spokesperson for FDA Taiwan told this publication that import checks would not be applied to beef products from New Zealand, and for Australia would be limited to beef tendon.
FoodNavigator-Asia reported last week that Taiwan’s Department of Health (DOH) had found ractopamine in two Australian beef samples and two New Zealand samples. It also said zilpaterol was found in an Australian sample.
These findings however were disputed by Australian and New Zealand authorities, who claimed it was likely a case of misidentification or cross-contamination as the checks were conducted at point-of-sale rather than on direct imports.
Both countries clarified that routine, continued checks for ractopamine and zilpaterol and other beta-antagonists in Australasian beef products found no residues.
Taiwan has however continued to take the findings seriously, with the country’s premier, Sean Chen, announcing on March 15 that an inter-ministerial task force would be set up to deal with this latest food scare.
Rebuilding the confidence on Taiwanese consumers is essential, Chen told his Cabinet, and the government needs to comprehensively examine every segment of the country’s food supply chain.
Country of origin contested
The Australian Department of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries (DAFF) issued a statement on March 14 that said Taiwan has not confirmed the country of origin and had received no formal notification of these detections.
“If Taiwan confirms a detection of banned residues in Australian beef, the Australian Government would take this issue very seriously and undertake a thorough trace-back investigation,” the department said.
Dan Coup, trade and economic manager at New Zealand’s Meat Industry Association, also confirmed that they had not received any official notification from Taiwan.
Beta-agonists such as ractopamine and zilpaterol – used to stimulate weight gain and increase leanness in cattle – are not registered for use in cattle in Australia and New Zealand or Taiwan.