Thousands of Taiwanese protest resumption of US beef imports

Taipei, Nov 14 (DPA) Thousands of Taiwanese Saturday marched in the capital Taipei to protest against the end of a six-year ban on the import of some types of US beef products — which they fear could spread the deadly mad cow disease.

“No toxic US beef,” shouted some 5,000 banners-waving protesters as they marched towards the square in front of the presidential office.

Taiwan signed a protocol with the US last month to lift a six-year ban on import of beef-on-the-bone, ground beef and offal not contaminated with specific risk materials.

But the decision drew the wrath of many Taiwanese, who fear the import of such beef could jeopardise their health after several cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as mad cow disease, were reported in the US.

“The government must return to the negotiating table for another round of talks with the US,” said Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which mobilised a large number of DPP supporters to join the protest.

She said the government of President Ma Ying-jeou must step down if it reintroduced the imports.

Taiwan’s health ministry later appealed for calm, saying relevant authorities would implement a set of highly strict regulations for inspection of ground beef, offal, brains, eyes, skulls and spiral nerve roots from cattle younger than 30 months of age.

But local consumer groups have planned to launch a referendum campaign to ask the public to vote on whether Taiwan should import those meat products.