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Major hypermarkets trying to deal with US beef issue

Activist poster to stop the government imports of US beef offal, meat grinder and bone marrow

CNA | 2012/02/15

Major hypermarkets trying to deal with U.S. beef issue

Taipei, Feb. 15 (CNA) — Four major hypermarkets in Taiwan have been making efforts to reassure consumers about the safety of their beef products, amid speculations that Taiwan may be preparing to lift its ban on U.S. beef imports that contain residues of the feed additive ractopamine.

A.Mart, a local hypermarket chain, said Wednesday it will adhere to the Taiwan government’s zero-tolerance regulations on the leanness-enhancing drug, while two French hypermarkets, Carrefour and RT Mart, said they are reviewing their positions on the issue.

Carrefour and RT Mart on Monday pulled U.S. beef imports from their shelves after traces of ractopamine were found in the products.

Carrefour Taiwan executive director Patrick Ganaye said his company will discuss the matter with its headquarters in France before making any decision to put U.S. beef products back on its shelves, even if Taiwan decides to lift its ractopamine ban.

If the U.N. Codex Alimentarius Commission adopts a maximum residue level for ractopamine that proves to be less stringent than Carrefour headquarters’ directive, Ganaye said, his company will choose the stricter option.

Like Taiwan, the European Union has a zero-tolerance rule on ractopamine residues in meat, he noted.

Meanwhile RT Mart said it will discuss the beef issue with its parent company in France and develop new strategies for the sale of U.S. beef.

According to Carrefour and RT Mart, their ratio of U.S. beef to New Zealand and Australian products is 50-50 and 60-40, respectively.

American warehouse club Costco said it has not stocked U.S. beef at any of its stores around Taiwan since January 2011 when residues of ractopamine were found in imports of the product. Costco’s beef is imported from either New Zealand or Australia.

The use of ractopamine as a livestock feed additive is allowed in 20-plus countries, but it is banned in Taiwan, China, European Union states and more than 100 other countries.

The beef dispute is seen as central to the re-opening of talks under the Trade Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) between Taiwan and the United States.

In 2011, after Taiwan blocked the entry of shipments of U.S. beef containing ractopamine residues, the U.S. extended the suspension of TIFA talks.

The TIFA, signed in September 1994, provides an official framework for Taiwan-U.S. dialogue on trade and economic issues in the absence of diplomatic ties. Bilateral talks under the TIFA have been stalled since 2007.

(By Yang Shu-min and Elizabeth Hsu)

 source: CNA