Scholars offer mixed views on ractopamine safety at local hearing


By Kuo Chien-shen and Elizabeth Hsu, Focus Taiwan CNA English News



Taipei, Oct. 12 (CNA) Experts speaking at a public hearing at the Legislature offered little clarity on whether pork with trace amounts of the veterinary drug ractopamine posed a health threat to local consumers.


Ractopamine, which promotes muscle growth in animals so they can be sold for higher prices, is banned in Taiwan.


But President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) announced on Aug. 28 that standards would be set for ractopamine in imported pork, in an apparent effort to clear the way for a trade deal with the U.S.


The move rekindled a longstanding debate over ractopamine's safety originally triggered by the United States' insistence in the 2000s that Taiwan open its market to beef and pork with ractopamine before comprehensive trade and investment talks could be held.


At Monday's hearing held by the Legislature's Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee, Wang Wen-hsin (王文心), who holds a doctoral degree holder in biomedicine from Kaohsiung Medical University, questioned the safety of the veterinary drug.


He cited a 2015 study that found ractopamine to be toxic to kidney cells of laboratory mice and epithelial cells that line human urinary tracts, and ultimately lowered the survival rate of the cells.


After feeding fruit flies the drug for a certain period of time, the team that conducted the study also found more crystals in their kidneys and their lifespan was shorter than the flies that had not ingested ractopamine, Wang said.


Wang Shun-cheng (王順成), a professor of environmental engineering and management at Chaoyang University of Technology, did not agree about the safety threat, saying that ractopmaine dissolves in water and metabolizes quickly.


"It is not as dangerous as people think it is," Wang argued, saying he believed pork containing ractopamine could be eaten safely.


He blamed the government for creating the wrong impression...