Taiwan Life in Brief – October 2020

KMT lawmakers take to the floor of the Legislative Yuan to protest President Tsai’s plan to open the market to U.S. pork containing trace amounts of ractopamine. Photo: Martti Chen

KMT Moves Toward Pork Toward Pork Referendum

The opposition Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) began collecting signatures for its petition against President Tsai’s decision to lift the ban on imports of U.S. pork products in September, questioning the safety of residue from the feed additive ractopamine in such products. The petition is a first step toward holding a national referendum on the topic.

Speaking at the KMT’s annual National Congress, Chairman Johnny Chiang expressed his party’s firm opposition to the central government’s decision to set a maximum residue level (MRL) for ractopamine in pork products. The UN-affiliated Codex Alimentarius Commission, which sets international food safety standards, lists an MRL of 10 parts per billion, the same level as Taiwan has already accepted for beef.

However, a growing number of major U.S. pork producers, including Smithfield, Hormel, JBS, and Tyson Foods, have ceased purchasing hogs that have been fed or exposed to ractopamine in order to continue selling their products to China where the drug is banned.

The KMT’s petition must gather total signatures equal to 1.5% of the number of voters in the most recent election in order to qualify for a referendum vote.

Firms Busted for Mask Fraud

Several Taiwanese firms and individuals have been caught trying to pass off non-medical-grade face masks from China as Taiwan-made products. The scam was thwarted by a large crackdown initiated by the authorities in late August. An investigation disclosed that four companies had been importing masks from China and repackaging them as Made-in-Taiwan masks.

The investigation also found that over 1.2 million fraudulent masks had been distributed and sold in pharmacies and other stores around the island for an estimated NT$4.4 million. One company that possessed only a sales license had imported 5.5 million Chinese masks since June and colluded with a separate firm that had a manufacturing license to relabel them as having been produced in Taiwan.

Some of the companies involved in the fraud, including Carry Mask, Team Power Healthcare, and Haw Ping Company, were part of the Taiwan government’s national campaign to source and produce more face masks to help battle the COVID-19 pandemic. The heroic effort involved increasing daily production of medical-grade face masks from 1.88 million to around 20 million.

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