Beef imports from Australia and New Zealand have come under the spotlight in Taiwan after samples from the two countries tested positive for growth drugs.
According to Taiwan’s Department of Health (DOH), in the round of inspections completed March 11, two samples of Australian beef and two samples of New Zealand beef tested positive for ractopamine.
Another sample of Australian beef tested positive for zilpaterol - known as a growth drug as toxic as ractopamine, a DOH spokesperson confirmed to FoodNavigator-Asia.
The result has surprised Taiwanese officials, where authorities had until now only censured US beef for containing ractopamine. Australian and New Zealand beef was deemed safe.
A statement on the same day revealed the DOH had incinerated 7,490 kg of US beef on March 12 after the batch was found to contain ractopamine. The beef was seized between February and March this year.
Tests surprised everyone
The latest round of inspections saw the department test 219 cattle for ractopamine, which was detected in 36 samples.
While 32 of these samples were from the US, two positive samples each from Australia and New Zealand took the health authorities with surprise, the spokesperson said.
“The general perception over the last couple of months with the ractopamine scare has been that Australian and New Zealand beef are definitely free of these growth drugs,” he added.
A positive sample was taken from the meats section of a food mart in Chiayi City, according to the department statement, which has been ordered to take it off its shelves until the Food and Drug Division completes its investigations.
“This is the sample that we detected zilpaterol at the concentration of 0.88 parts per billion. It is banned in Taiwan, as is ractopamine. But it is known to be way more toxic for consumption,” he said.
Australian commerce office denies claims
Food Navigator-Asia contacted both Meat and Livestock Australia and Beef and Lamb New Zealand over the DOH findings, but both parties were unavailable.
The Australian Commerce and Industry Office (ACIO) issued a statement on March 12 that saidlocal authorities and consumers should not jump to conclusions over the origin of the tainted beef.
The ACIO made it clear that its meat and livestock sector prohibits the use of ractopamine or zilpaterol, and has found neither in its own tests on Australian cattle for the past nine years.