By Dow Jones Business News, October 29, 2013, 01:00:00 PM EDT
--Taiwan to increase inspections of some U.S. meat imports
--Beef samples contained traces of zilpaterol, a controversial additive
--Move comes after Merck suspended zilpaterol sales in U.S. in August
By Kelsey Gee
Taiwan is increasing inspections of beef imported from the U.S. after health officials there found a shipment
containing traces of an unapproved growth additive, according to a U.S. trade group.
A 300-kilogram shipment was found to contain zilpaterol hydrochloride--a feed additive known by the brand name Zilmax
and barred by some Asian and European countries--when beef tenderloin products were tested by officials in Taiwan's
Taoyuan County, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
The discovery marks the second such case in Asia in the past three weeks and comes after Merck & Co. ( MRK ), the maker
of Zilmax, suspended sales of the feed additive in the U.S. in August amid concerns it causes animal-health problems.
Zilpaterol was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the mid-2000s and gained popularity in the beef
industry in recent years as a way to add lean muscle to cattle.
Earlier this month, South Korea suspended beef imports from a processing plant operated by Brazilian meatpacker JBS SA
(JBSAY, JBSS3.BR) after the country found zilpaterol in beef products shipped from the facility.
The cases indicate zilpaterol remains in the beef supply chain because cattle producers maintained some supplies that
were purchased before Merck suspended sales in mid-August.
Regional news outlets in Taiwan reported earlier Tuesday that the product was imported by Mayfull Foods Corp. and sold
to restaurant chain operator Wowprime Corp. (2727.TW) in Taoyuan County.
The identity of the U.S. meatpacker that shipped the beef in question hasn't been identified. Joe Schuele, a spokesman
for the Meat Export Federation, a nonprofit that helps U.S. companies expand meat sales abroad, said the level of
inspection by Taiwan officials of product shipped from the U.S. facilities in question will be increased to 20% of
product at Taiwanese borders from the usual 5%.
Mr. Schuele said the expanded testing isn't expected to affect all U.S. companies shipping beef to Taiwan. "We
anticipate that the enhanced testing will be limited to that same product from the same exporter," he said.
All products shipped to Mayfull have been recalled, according to Taiwan media reports.
Taiwan is the eighth-largest importer of U.S. beef. About $164 million worth of beef was shipped to Taiwan from the
U.S. this year through mid-August, according to the Meat Export Federation.
Zilpaterol and ractopamine, another feed additive that has been used widely in the U.S., are in a category of drugs
called beta-agonists that are mixed into feed for cattle, hogs and other animals during the final weeks before slaughter
to promote weight gain by stimulating the growth of lean muscle instead of fat.
Merck in August said it would halt sales of Zilmax until it completed an investigation into whether the additive was
the cause of lameness and immobility that Tyson Foods Inc. ( TSN ) and other meatpackers suspected could be associated
with the drug.
Write to Kelsey Gee at email@example.com
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