Taiwan Becomes Last Country to Lift Ban on Canadian Beef

Taiwan Becomes Last Country to Lift Ban on Canadian Beef
Photo Credit: AP/達志影像

What you need to know

Despite the fact that the process took more than a year, some legislators argue that the government 'ambushed' the public with the decision and want explanations.

On July 8, Taiwan lifted its temporary ban on Canadian beef, which was imposed in February 2015 due to concerns over a confirmed case of mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE) in Alberta, Canada. The sudden announcement, however, has raised questions among some legislators over the authorities’ lack of explanations and communication with the public.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement on July 7 announcing it has decided to lift the ban on Canadian beef following a reassessment that took more than a year. Yet, it stressed that the import application for Canadian beef will not be reviewed if the source of the meat does not meet the following six requirements:

  1. The source must be healthy cows that have passed health checks conducted by veterinarians.
  2. The source must not be older than 30 months.
  3. “Specified risk materials” (parts that might contain BSE cells) like heads, bones, brains, eyes, and organs must be removed during slaughter.
  4. The meat must come from producers qualified to export beef to Taiwan.
  5. Beef must be produced under the supervision of official veterinarians in Canada.
  6. Every shipment of beef must be attached with food hygiene documents issued by official Canadian veterinarians.

The FDA said that over the past year, it has sent officials to Canada to inspect local meat factories, received related food safety reports from Canada, held several meetings with BSE experts, and exchanged ideas with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW), and the Council of Agriculture.

Taiwan is the last country in the world to lift its ban on Canadian beef, following South Korea and China.

The timing of the statement, which was issued the night Typhoon Nepartak hit Taiwan, has raised questions among legislators from both the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the oppositon Kuomintang (KMT).

KMT legislators Wang Yu-min (王育敏) and Lee Yen-hsiu (李彥秀) said they did not understand why the FDA chose to "expeditiously" make such an important announcement when everyone was busy preparing for the coming typhoon. They said they considered it an ambush from the government.

DPP Legislator Liu Chien-kuo (劉建國) said he told the FDA that the inspection reports on the Canadian meat factories were "too sloppy" and asked for improvement. The sudden announcement is unacceptable, he said, adding that he will request the Executive Yuan to elaborate on the decision.

Yu Kai-hsiung (游開雄), vice chairman of the Consumers' Foundation, also said the FDA has not been transparent enough about several details regarding the inspection process and its discussions with experts, making the reports unconvincing.

Chiang Yu-mei (姜郁美), director-general of the FDA, said the FDA concluded that the BSE risk of Canadian beef was extremely low after officials completed inspections on Canadian meat factories. She emphasized that the FDA will reinforce its examination procedures and test every shipment of Canadian beef.

Chou Chin-cheng (周晉澄), dean of the School of Veterinarian Medicine at National Taiwan University, said BSE is now very rare with less than 10 cases globally each year. The key is whether Canada can perform well in risk management and if it can spot an infected cow immediately.

Other legislators have no problem with the lifting of the ban.

KMT Legislator Lin Te-fu (林德福) said the FDA agreed to strengthen the examination procedures requested by his party. In addition, all other countries have lifted the ban except Taiwan, and Canadian beef only accounts for less than 2% of the local meat market. Therefore, he said it was reasonable to resume the imports.

People First Party Legislator Chen Yi-chieh (陳怡潔) said that while she also questioned the timing of the announcement, she supports the lifting of the ban since the issue has been negotiated and extensively discussed by the old and new governments.

First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole