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Taipei impounds 300 kilos of US beef in food scare
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2013-10-29 03:45 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Taipei health authorities on Tuesday impounded 300 kilograms of beef imported from the United States on suspicion it might contain the banned leanness-enhancing drug zilpaterol.

Inspectors raided a site in the Neihu District owned by Mayful Foods Corporation, the supplier of beef to the Yuanshao restaurant chain at one of whose outlets in Taoyuan County the tainted meat was found.

According to the Taipei Department of Health, Mayful imported 238.82 kilos of the beef on January 3 and 122.43 kilos on January 20 and sold both batches to Wowprime Corporation, the owner of Yuanshao and one of Taiwan’s highest-profile restaurant chain operators. Inspectors were expecting to find 203.4 kilos, but the discrepancy might have been the result of restaurants returning unsold meat after the allegations became public, reports said.

Zilpaterol is completely banned in Taiwan, so even the 0.5 parts per billion found in Taoyuan should not have been there, inspectors said. Health officials said the low level was nevertheless unlikely to pose a threat to consumers.

Another leanness drug, ractopamine, was the subject of a major political battle last year after President Ma Ying-jeou fought to have it allowed as a residue from cattle feed additives in US beef. Consumers’ groups, farmers and opposition politicians fought a tough battle to keep ractopamine out, but after an international decision against a ban, lawmakers compromised and allowed the meat in with a maximum level of 10 ppb.

Zilpaterol was more toxic than ractopamine and might be harder to metabolize by animals, officials said. Despite the fears, the US Food and Drug Administration has approved the drug as a supplement for cattle.

The latest scare over additives in beef follows hard on the heels of a massive scandal involving the adulteration of edible oil products by Chang Chi Foodstuff Co., Ltd. and Flavor Full Foods Inc.

As a result, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said Tuesday it was considering raising fines for food-related scams. Companies mixing potentially damaging low-quality ingredients into more expensive products such as olive oil were seen as being able to get away by paying low fines.

Officials said maximum fines would likely rise to NT$50 million (US$1.7 million) from NT$15 million (US$510,000) and maximum prison terms to five years from three years for forging or imitating food products, and to NT$4 million (US$136,000) from NT$200,000 (US$6,800) for misleading labeling. The MOHW said the proposals still needed to be approved by the Cabinet first and then by the Legislative Yuan.

Government officials said Tuesday that any fines collected from Chang Chi and Flavor Full should not be considered as extra income for the treasury but go to consumers and other victims of the food scams.

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