Medical community calls for ractopamine risk assessment

Taipei,  The medical community on Friday called for an assessment of the potential risk in consuming meat containing ractopamine as Taiwan plans to allow the imports of American pork containing the controversial feed additive that enhances leanness.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) announced earlier Friday that Taiwan will set standards for ractopamine in imported pork and ease restrictions on American beef from cattle aged over 30 months in an apparent attempt to pave the way to negotiate a trade deal with the United States.

Su Wei-shuo (蘇偉碩), a clinical psychiatrist who has attended technical advisory committee meetings in the past on imports of U.S. beef, worried that the move was being made without a sound scientific basis, saying that the international community has not done a risk assessment on the safety of the long-term consumption of ractopamine.

When the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the body responsible for implementing international food standards, set the allowable amount of ractopamine in 2012, it did so by a vote because of the lack of a scientific consensus on the issue, Su said.

According to the standard set by the commission, the allowable amount of ractopamine for beef and pork are the same at 10 micrograms per kilogram of pig or cattle muscle, 40 micrograms per kilogram in livers and 90 micrograms per kilogram in animal kidneys.

In the end, the decision to lift the ban won by only a 69-67 vote margin, showing that support and opposition were closely matched, Su said, urging the government to publish a risk assessment report on the issue in view of the lack of hard science on the issue.

Su said ractopamine is not used to treat animal diseases but to save feed expenditure and increase profits.

Therefore, food safety risks should not be shouldered by consumers, Su said, warning of potential risks to pregnant women, infants, the elderly, and patients with liver, kidney, and other chronic diseases.

Yang Chen-chang (楊振昌), director of the Division of Clinical Toxicology and Occupational Medicine under the Department of Medicine at Taipei Veterans General Hospital, said the residual amount of ractopamine in the muscles of cows and pigs are low and risks are relatively controllable.

Higher residue levels, however, are found in internal organs such as in the lungs and kidneys, and there should be risk assessments if imports of internal organs are allowed, Yang said.

In the past, some experts have said that animals that feed on additives that promoted leanness are more prone to symptoms of hyperactivity, high stress levels and fast heart rates, Yang said.

The European Union believes that there is a possibility of genotoxicity, Yang said, although there is not clear evidence to prove it, it is still a hidden concern.


Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

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