Food Safety

Food Safety Becomes Political in Taiwan


Just a few weeks ago Taipei’s streets were filled with thousands of protestors gathered for the “Autumn Struggle”, an annual march organized by various Taiwanese labor groups.  The anger of the marchers was fueled by a recent decision of the current government to allow the importation of U.S. pork that contains the additive ractopamine. This new ruling becomes effective in January 2021.

What is ractopamine? Briefly, the additive ractopamine is a prominent lean muscle growth-promoting agent used by meat manufacturers that is usually administered a few weeks prior to slaughter.  It increases feed efficiency causing livestock to grow faster while consuming less feed, resulting in a higher lean muscle to fat ratio. 

“The International Codex Alimentarius Commission in conjunction with The Joint FAO/SHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) published an information sheet in April 2012 summarizing their evaluation on ractopamine.  Soon after, Codex voted to adopt a Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) of 10 ppb for ractopamine in pork and beef.”

Despite this decision, many countries like China, Russia and the EU continue to ban its use and it is not used at all in pork production in Taiwan.  It is, however, approved for use in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.  The MRL in the U.S. is 50 ppb which is much higher than limit approved by Codex.

The KMT or Kuomintang, the main opposition party of President Tsai Ing-wen’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DDP) in Taiwan, claims ractopamine threatens food safety and has called on President Tsai to defend the decision to allow U.S. imports of pork that contain this additive. 

The question that still remains is how ractopamine affects human health. It has been approved by the FDA who requires specific studies to determine how a formulated product like ractopamine behaves in both animal and people.  “In controlled safety and efficacy studies involving thousands of pigs, and a 20-year track record of safe use in hundreds of millions of finishing pigs, ractopamine has been shown to be a safe and effective feed supplement when administered at 5-10 ppm (4.5-9 grams/ton feed) during the last 21-28 days, corresponding to the last 45-90 pounds of weight gain at finishing.”

“Although the effects of ractopamine on animals is fairly well-documented, the potential health consequences in humans are not.  There is one known study with regard to human health and the main cited symptom was rapid heart rate.  However, it is widely believed that when used according to appropriate veterinary practices it does not cause harm to human health.  The idea is that when the drug is used according to label instructions, any residual levels that may be present in final product intended for human consumption would not be cause for concern.”  Health Canada’s human safety assessment of ractopamine supported these findings.

Some U.S. packers have elected to go ractopamine free

Nonetheless, several U.S. pork packers have elected to process only pigs that are free of ractopamine in order to meet the large international demand for U.S. pork particularly from countries like China and those in the EU that have a zero tolerance for ractopamine in pork.

Meanwhile, in Taiwan, the debate continues as the KMT tries to organize a referendum on U.S. pork imports while the DDP (ruling party) continues to urge the KMT to “stop its political machinations and return to rational discussions.”

Lily Noon


  1. JBS USA and Tyson Stop Using Ractopamine,
  2. 3 Key Facts to Know About Ractopamine, Merieux NutriSciences
  3. Thousands Join Taiwan Protest, Anger Focused on U.S. Pork, Reuters
  4. Pork From Ractopamine-Fed Pigs is Safe for Consumption, MSU


ラクトパミンとは?  簡単に説明すると、ラクトパミンは、飼料の添加物で、肉の赤身を増やす成長促進剤です。通常は、解体処理の数週間前に使われます。飼料の消費量を減らしながらも成長を促進するため、効率が良く、脂身に対する赤身の比率を高める効果があります。










  1. JBS USA and Tyson Stop Using RactopamineJBS USATyson、ラクトパミンの使用を停止)、
  2. 3 Key Facts to Know About Ractopamine(ラクトパミンについて知っておくべき3つの主な事実)、Merieux NutriSciences
  3. Thousands Join Taiwan Protest, Anger Focused on U.S. Pork(数千人が台湾の抗議デモに参加、米国産豚肉に怒りが集中)、Reuters
  4. Pork From Ractopamine-Fed Pigs is Safe for Consumption(ラクトパミン使用の豚肉は消費に安全)、MSU


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