Feed Additive Remains Sticking Point in Beef Dispute; Key Ag Senators Press Taiwan, Declaring U.S. Beef Safe

The two top Senators on the Agriculture Committee, Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), recently sent a letter to Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou in an effort to resolve an ongoing trade dispute: Taiwan continues to reject U.S. beef fed ractopamine, a commonly used feed additive that promotes lean muscle growth.

cowdrugs-featured.jpgThe letter, sent earlier this month, expresses “strong concern” over Taiwan’s position on the issue, which has become a sticking point in the negotiations over a trade and investment framework agreement (TIFA) between Taiwan and the U.S.

“This past January, the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration began rejecting shipments of U.S. beef based on trace amounts of ractopamine,” explains the letter, adding that Taiwanese officials pulled beef products from shelves, which caused “an unnecessarily volatile trading environment for U.S. exporters.”

The senators cite U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of the drug and a Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) recommendation that maximum residue levels (MRL) be set for both beef and pork as evidence that ractopamine is safe. JECFA is jointly admistered by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization.

The senators say Taiwan’s zero-tolerance policy for the additive “lacks scientific standing.”

“We appreciate your commitment to finding a solution to the unfair restrictions and are pleased to hear that a minister without portfolio was appointed to lead a high-level task force to address this issue,” reads the letter.   

“It is our hope that these continued misperceptions concerning the safety of U.S. beef can be resolved quickly in order to resume a stable and predictable trading environment for our U.S. beef industry and dependable supply for Taiwanese consumers,” the letter continues. “As trading partners and fellow members of the World Trade Organization, we must work to ensure that our trade decisions are grounded on scientific standards and not misinformation and fear. We look forward to working with you to resolve this issue in a timely manner.”

The letter was also signed by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Mike Crapo (R-ID), John Barrasso (R-WY), John Boozman (R-AR), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Roy Blunt (R-MO), James Risch (R-ID), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO).