Taipei, March 13 (CNA)
Premier Sean Chen said Tuesday that the government plans to overhaul the Act Governing Food Sanitation to ensure food safety by establishing an effective monitoring system.
Chen's remarks came after several legislators demanded that the Cabinet should present a bill to the Legislature's Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee, which was scheduled to review lawmakers' bills related to leanness enhancers in meat products the following day.
According to Chen, after over seven months of work, the Department of Health (DOH) has completed a draft amendment to the act, aimed at dealing with overall food safety issues rather than just leanness enhancers.
Chen added that he has asked the DOH and the Council of Agriculture to review their food inspection procedures.
The issue of Taiwan banning beef imports containing ractopamine, which is allowed in the United States but banned in many other countries, has been debated in Taiwan, especially following a March 5 announcement by the Cabinet that it might conditionally ease the restriction.
Several of the bills to be reviewed by the legislative committee propose specifically banning leanness enhancers, since the current Article 11 of the act only provides broad descriptions of substances not allowed in food products.
During a Legislative Yuan sitting, Chen also responded to lawmakers' comments that the U.S. is pressuring Taiwan on the beef issue.
Chen said the U.S. beef issue has remained unresolved since 2007, when the government under then-President Chen Shui-bian notified the World Trade Organization about planned regulations on safety levels of ractopamine residue in meat products, but did not implement them.
"It is not about pressure," Chen said. He added that "it is an issue a responsible government has to face" so that the international community will not see Taiwan as an untrustworthy trade partner.
(By Ho Meng-kuei, Justin Su and Kay Liu)