Taiwan set to resume ban on certain US beef item imports

TAIPEI: Taiwan has said it would resume a ban on certain US beef imports amid public concerns over mad cow disease.

Lawmakers agreed to amend a law on food health to ban imports of cow organs, minced beef and other high-risk items such as spines and eyes, said Lu Hsueh-chang, parliamentary whip of the ruling Kuomintang party.

The decision is to be finalised next month in a vote that would furthermore determine whether beef-on-the-bone should also be banned, he said. “The Taiwan public is concerned about the safety of certain US beef products and we hope the US will respect our decision,” Lu said.

The move will partially overturn a decision by the health department to allow imports of US beef-on-the-bone and cow organs, which was met with a public outcry. Thousands of people took to the streets last month to protest the decision, saying the government had ignored concerns over mad cow disease, the common name for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

The opposition Democratic Progressive Party has accused the authorities of bowing to pressure from Washington to downplay the alleged health risks of certain US beef products.

The government, which has faced an uphill battle to persuade a sceptical public, has warned of the possible fallout from the United States if the restrictions are re-imposed.

Taiwan banned all US beef imports in December 2003 over fears of mad cow disease. In 2006, Taipei relaxed the rules to permit imports of boneless beef.

Some scientists believe that consumption of the brains and spinal cords of animals infected with BSE can lead to the potentially fatal Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.