Ractopamine: Science versus Superstition.....Statement by AIT Director Stephen M. Young
There has been a lot of confusion and controversy surrounding the use of Ractopamine recently. So in the midst of this emotionally-charged atmosphere, I would like to put forward some basic facts.
Ractopamine hydrochloride (also known by its trade name "Paylean") is a swine feed ingredient that increases the amount of quality pork and improves production efficiency, lowering production costs, which results in benefits to consumers.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of Ractopamine in the United States in 1999. Since then, consumers in the United States and Taiwan alike have been eating and enjoying U.S. pork produced this way. The U.S. FDA has a well-deserved reputation for its scientific expertise and has a rigorous approval process before any new veterinary drug is allowed for use in the United States.
I would note that WHO/FAO Codex, the international body that establishes basic guidelines for food safety, has reviewed Ractopamine and established a draft standard. In plain language, this means the scientific work has been done and the product has been determined by international experts to be safe. Numerous countries, including Japan, South Korea, and Australia, have adopted standards consistent with those put forward by Codex for meat imports, as Taiwan has recently proposed.
AIT's advocacy for a science-based approach to the testing and approval of Ractopamine has been described by some commentators as "pressure." We understand that food safety is a critically important issue and a real concern for Taiwan's leaders, consumers, and hog farmers. It is an important issue for the U.S. as well. Our goal is to separate the science from the politics so that Taiwan's decision can be based on sound science, instead of misinformation and rumor. Of course, we do not want to see an important export market shut off because of unfounded concerns about safety, but we do not see standing up for our rights to ask that food safety decisions be based on science as inappropriate. We applaud the Taiwan Department of Health for proposing approval of Ractopamine in line with the draft Codex standards.
To see the protests that took place on Tuesday in front of the Department of Health, the Council of Agriculture, and my own building, one would think that the small fraction of the Taiwan pork market represented by U.S. imports somehow constitutes a grave threat to Taiwan farmers -- which is certainly not the case. Our negotiating position on this has always been simply in the interest of lowering trade barriers between the United States and Taiwan and maintaining a level playing field for international trade.
In the interest of free trade, in the interest of the Taiwan consumer, and in the interest of science prevailing over superstition, it is my sincere hope that Taiwan will adopt a science-based approach to setting standards for the level of Ractopamine permissible in U.S. meat exports to Taiwan.