Taiwan okays U.S. beef offal imports

Apr 23, 2010
by WLJ

Taiwan health authorities will approve the application from a local beef importer to buy 453 kilograms (998.7 pounds) of U.S. beef offal as long as high-risk internal organs are not included in the shipment, the authorities said last week.

The local beef importer applied April 15 to import the offal. It was the first application for importing U.S. beef offal since last November, according to the website of the Bureau of Foreign Trade under the Taiwan Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA), Central News Agency (CNA) reported.

To help ease any lingering public doubt about U.S. beef products, the Department of Health (DOH), MOEA and the Council of Agriculture (COA) held a joint press conference to explain the existing standards. Six types of beef offal, such as beef tongues, penises, testicles, tails, tendons and skirt (diaphragm), are not classified as internal organs, so imports of those non-high-risk beef products will be accepted, they said, according to CNA.

The foreign trade bureau’s website does not provide details of beef offal products that the local business applied to import. Legislators from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party argued that the beef tongues and penises should be classified as internal organs, which would make them illegal to import, CNA reported.

DOH said it decided last May that beef tongues are not classified as internal organs, unlike thoracic, abdominal and pelvic organs, which are not allowed into Taiwan under a protocol signed with Washington last October. However, as the public appears to have doubts about beef tongues, imports require special permission and must also pass batch-by-batch inspection, DOH Deputy Minister Mei- Lng Hsiao said, CNA reported.

CNA reported Tien-Lai Hsu, director general of the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine under COA, said that high-risk circumvallate papillae, toward the base of the tongue, are required to be removed from beef tongues before entering Taiwan.

The first batch of the other beef parts will also be inspected batch-by-batch, but if they pass the checks, only 5 percent of the cases in subsequent shipments will be inspected, officials said. According to MOEA statistics, over 210,000 kg (462,970.8 pounds) of U.S. bone-in beef products have been imported since last November, CNA reported.

The Consumers’ Foundation criticized the government Monday for not classifying beef diaphragms as a high-risk internal organ and said the decision to allow the imports of the beef part was “unbelievable.” Foundation Chairman Tien- Jen said in an interview that the government’s classification of diaphragms as something other than an internal organ was different from the perception of most people, CNA reported.

Hsieh said that aside from diaphragms, beef tongue and beef penis should also be classified as high-risk products. The World Organization for Animal Health has considered designating the latter as a high-risk material, he added. The foundation will continue to promote its petition drive to launch a referendum on rejecting high-risk beef products from the U.S., Hsieh said. — DTN