Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Taiwan Pig Farmers Have Tables Turned

It was obvious this would happen... The Taipei Times reports on the amazing, unbelievable, and totally unexpected news that Taiwan's pigs are more poisonous than American beef....
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Alex Tsai (蔡正元) told a press conference yesterday that seven out of 10 pork products tested were found to contain traces of salbutamol as well as cimaterol, adding that both are more toxic than ractopamine.

Tsai said that tests conducted by I-Mei Foods Co’s (義美食品) food safety lab, as shown in a paper dated March 7, revealed that traces of salbutamol and cimaterol were found in two sausage products from T-Ham (台畜) and Hsin Tung Yang (新東陽).

The paper showed that 9.16 parts per billion (ppb) of salbutamol and 4.98ppb of cimaterol were found in T-Ham’s sausage, while 0.68ppb of salbutamol and 2.98ppb of cimaterol in Hsin Tung Yang’s sausage.

The paper also showed tests on frozen backbone, ground pork meat, skin, pork belly, kidneys and liver, which Tsai said were bought at supermarkets, were found to contain salbutamol residues ranging from 0.22ppb to 0.37ppb.


Tsai said pig farmers favor using salbutamol over ractopamine as a leanness-enhancing feed additive for pigs because ractopamine is more expensive.

Tsai said he publicized the test results to highlight the problem of illegal use of leanness-enhancing feed additives and urged health authorities to intensify inspections of meat products to safeguard public health.
The article goes on to say that all leanness enhancing chemicals are banned in Taiwan, and quotes a professor of veterinary science who said that salbutamol is far more dangerous than ractopamine. I-mei denied it had ever let its reports becomes public, and the supermarket chain whose products Tsai critiqued was also in full-blown denial. Thus this little back-atcha from the KMT at the island's pig farmers did some collateral damage to well-established local brands.

Pig farmers, who fear the entrance of American pork and pork products into the Taiwan market, have been vocal in opposing US beef on the principle of not letting the camel put his nose into the tent. They've been an important presence at local protests. It was inevitable that the KMT would point out what flaming hypocrisy it is for local pig farmers to complain about additives in imported meat, such an easy and obvious way to attack them.

That said, let's hope this leads to actual improvement in food inspection and not merely gaudy headlines about large fines given to a few scapegoats.
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B.Y. said...

I can't agree with you more on the characterization of pig farmers' "flaming hypocrisy" on the US beef issue; however, when you make it a point to attribute what Tsai said or did to KMT, then perhaps it should also be made a point to attribute the pig farmers' "flaming hypocrisy" to DPP. After all, Tsai may very well just want to reveal the untold story or otherwise have an altruistic intent on improving public food safety. There is no evidence presented in the article about KMT instructing Tsai to play the back-atcha game. It is worth noting that I-mei while denying that it did anything that caused or authorized the report to be publicly disclosed, it did not deny the test results presented in such report. Has I-mei denied the fact they did the tests and those were the test results from their lab? Tsai or someone connected to Tsai might have a confidentiality issue but that’s beside the point.

Michael Turton said...

Well, I guess I didn't mean to imply that the KMT had coordinated the strike back, only that it was something that side would have done anyway. Someone on the KMT side sooner or later was going to have the bright idea of responding on this.

I dont' make equivalencies between the KMT and the DPP like that, that leads to the kind of false balance that plagues the media. I think the DPP in this case is not organizing things but simply riding the bandwagon because it is a good issue to hack on the KMT with. I don't think the KMT is involved in some nefarious conspiracy here; it is in charge of the government, so it is on the other side. I suspect that if Tsai had won the election the KMT would be righteously defending Taiwan from the horrors of ractopamine and Tsai would be exasperatedly explaining that this issue needs to be resolved and the Americans permitted to export to Taiwan....


B.Y. said...

The clarification is well received. A question: Given the general belief that the percentage of the new immigrants is no more than 17-18%, what do you think mainly contributed to Ma's election? Do you think this result came out about right or was the election still largely manipulated?

Michael Turton said...

I still haven't gone over the numbers from the election yet.

Readin said...

"ROC claims unwavering sovereignty over the South China Sea, just like Beijing. Is this wise policy?"

If I were running Taiwan, Taiwan would continue to claim unwavering sovereignty over Mongolia (Taiwan is, after all, the birthplace of Mongolian Barbeque).

However, I would renounce all sovereignty claims over Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang.

Taiwan Echo said...

"Has I-mei denied the fact they did the tests and those were the test results from their lab?"

I-mei said that the format of report Tsai presented is not their form.

Taiwan Echo said...


This pork additive issue is a sword of two edges.

One one side, it gives the US beef a misconception of "safer" food, thus might reduce the anti-us-beef momentum, which will help Ma;

On the other side, it shows how sluggish Ma government is in terms of food safety. It will damage Ma;

(2) Documents show that pushing beef and pork into Taiwan is USA's goal of trade talk. AIT said to Taiwanese (a behavior beyond the line of diplomacy) that Taiwanese port is more toxic than the US beef.

These background info makes the explosive news of port additive in such a short time look more like a prelude to pave the way for the US to follow the beef with pork.

3) AIT said that Taiwanese pork has more additives than the US beef, so Taiwan has no ground to ban the US beef.

Do they agree that because the US has serious drug issue, the US should not ban drug from Mexico ?

AIT should stop making stupid comments to fiddle Taiwan's domestic issue.

Anonymous said...

Well, the KMT certainly has enough power to implement serious food inspections if it is so inclined.

- Sara K.

Michael Turton said...

Do they agree that because the US has serious drug issue, the US should not ban drug from Mexico ?

Drugs are banned in Mexico too. That's where your analogy fails.

In any case AIT is really pointing out that the issue isn't food safety, but protecting Taiwan's pork producers from US competition. Now if those producers were producing healthy meat products in an environmentally sound manner, then I'd be supporting them and denouncing AIT. But I don't have any grounds for denouncing anyone here because I don't see much difference between either side's "I'm going to poison you and your environment so I can make money" position.

Thus I can't get very excited about the Taiwan side, and I can see many arguments for allowing US beef and pork into Taiwan, and many arguments against it. Perhaps because I am increasingly vegetarian in my eating habits I am less inclined to feel some threat to my tribal/social identity in this issue.....


Taiwan Echo said...


Whether Mexico bans the drug is not relevant. The point is how US want to set drug standard is US's business, not any other countries'. The US has the right to decide what's the best for their citizens according to a standard they see fit, not according to a standard other countries see fit. This standard may be stricter than others, maybe looser. It may be based solely on scientific data, maybe not -- it may include other considerations like social impact, etc. That is, it is never be a simple decision of "science-based."

How people raise pigs in Taiwan is irrelevant, too. Taiwan has a strict rule to prohibit the use of stuff like Ractopamine. Taiwan government should have executed the laws to make it disappear from the market. The solution is the gov do what they supposed to do. It should never be an excuse to open up more Ractopamine-containing beef. Just like that the drugs problem in the USA shouldn't be an excuse for the law to allow for more drugs smuggling, like "it's already so much, doesn't matter if more come".

Even if you want to single out the "science" as a sole reason, the Europe just passed an agreement to allow more US beef import but insisting on "no Ractopamine." This is the exact same stance the Taiwanese ask for.

Considering the time line of this decision of Europe's, it's not difficult to see why the USA is pushing Ma Ying-jeou in such a never-so-harsh way. The USA has to force Taiwan to accept the Ractopamine before the Europe rejects it. It is obvious that the USA is pushing Taiwan to take beef that the advanced countries like those in Europe doesn't want, with a privilege to enjoy looser standard than Taiwan's own beef/port has.

B.Y. said...

If the finding of food additives salbutamol and/or cimaterol in Taiwan's pork products is true, then things become very ironic because there is such an unreasonably enormous gap between what the pork products should be (i.e. with zero leanness-enhancers) and what they actually are (when we buy them in the market); in other words, we are led to believe we are using safe meat products which in fact are not and may be much more dangerous. Does the Taiwanese system routinely harbor an unreasonable degree of risk? If such is the case, Taiwanese people are deprived of their freedom to make "real" choices as they live in a place with risks they can’t begin to appreciate. On the other hand, I don’t see that allowing the US beef products to be imported would necessarily take away the freedom to make choices. If people have any doubt about ractopamine or why it is a permissible food additive in the US, they don’t have to buy or use the US beef products, even after they are imported.

Taiwan Echo said...


Your statement is self-contradictory. In the first part you mentioned there's a gap between regulations and the real world. That gap comes from bureaucracy, which is something the government should have done but didn't. It is a proof that the gov is unable to do what they are supposed to do.

If "unable to execute what they promise to safeguard the food" is already proved, how can anyone believe the gov will enforce correct labeling of the beef in the future ?

The real problem is the bureaucracy, which will deprive people of their freedom to make "real" choices in any case.

B.Y. said...

"The real problem is the bureaucracy, which will deprive people of their freedom to make "real" choices in any case."

For sure, we will always have bureaucracy. If people won't have real choices because of it, why do we care what standard we adopt for food additives? Is it always the government to blame when something goes wrong? I think not. We tend to point our finger at the government simply because it's easier to do.

Geoff@VicBus tour charter said...

No matter what, every country have got the right to decide on how to control importation especially when it comes to food.