Trade Update-Taiwan

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Jun 3, 2004
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East Texas
Taiwan Says 7-Year Ban On US Beef Could Be Lifted Early

--A Taiwanese official Friday said the island's ban on U.S. beef could be lifted at the end of this year or in early 2005 because America's cattle appear to be free of mad cow disease.

Taiwan plans to send an 18-member team to visit selected U.S. cattle farms, but the trip's timing has yet to be worked out with the Americans, Hsiao Tung-ming, a Health Department official, told the Associated Press.

The Taiwanese government was among more than 30 worldwide that banned imports of U.S. beef after a cow tested positive for the brain-wasting disease in the U.S. last December. Taiwan's ban was to last for up to seven years.

"A team of American experts has concluded that there are no more new mad cow cases in the country," Hsiao said.

"We recognize their conclusion and agree that there is but a minimal chance of an outbreak, but we still need to make field trips there to decide if they've taken proper measures for cattle inspections to avoid contamination," Hsiao said.

He added that the beef ban could be lifted by the end of 2004 or early next year.

America was the source of 20% of Taiwan's beef before the ban.

Taiwanese government statistics showed the island imported 13,900 tons of beef from the U.S. in 2002, 35,000 tons from Australia and 15,400 tons from New Zealand.

Scientists believe mad cow disease spreads when farmers feed cattle with recycled meat and bones from infected animals. It is thought to cause the fatal human variant, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

But experts say cuts of beef such as chuck or round or beef steaks do not pose a risk. The agent that causes mad cow disease is found in the brain, eyes, spinal cord and the lower part of the intestines, they say.

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