Taiwan lawmakers approve imports of additive-fed U.S. pork

The main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party stages a protest to oppose the import of U.S. pork containing ractopamine in Taipei
Lawmakers of the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party hold signs as they take part in a protest against the import of U.S. pork containing ractopamine at the parliament in Taipei, Taiwan, December 24, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang

December 24, 2020

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s parliament on Thursday approved measures that pave the way for imports of U.S. pork containing a leanness-enhancing additive, despite objections by the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party which says the move is a health risk.

President Tsai Ing-wen’s decision in August to permit imports of U.S. pork containing ractopamine, banned in the European Union and China, has roiled Taiwan politics.

The KMT has staged noisy protests and flung pig entrails in parliament on one occasion last month to protest against the plans.

The government says nobody will be forced to eat the pork and that the move brings Taiwan into line with international norms. Major Taiwanese food firms have already pledged not to sell pork made with ractopamine.

But with the ruling Democratic Progressive Party having a majority in parliament, the KMT was never going to be able to block the administrative measures that allow ractopamine pork.

“Ractopamine pork is poison pork,” KMT lawmaker Lai Shyh-bao told parliament, holding up a large sign reading the same message.

Premier Su Tseng-chang told reporters the government would protect people’s health.

“We have seen that importers have publicly said they will not import ractopamine pork,” he added.

The KMT cancelled plans for public protests against the decision outside parliament after Taiwan reported on Tuesday its first locally-transmitted COVID-19 case since April.

The issue is extremely sensitive for Taiwan’s government as the United States is the Chinese-claimed island’s most important international backer and supplier of arms.

Taiwan’s government hopes the easing of U.S. pork imports will pave the way for a long-hoped for free trade deal with Washington. The de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan has decried “disinformation” from politicians about food safety.

Pork is Taiwan’s most popular meat, with average per capita consumption of around 40 kg. Most pork consumed in Taiwan is domestically reared.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)