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2009-12-18 | A Letter to the People of Taiwan

A Letter to the People of Taiwan

OT-0931E | Date: 12/18/2009

To our friends in Taiwan,

I have been in Taiwan for over three months now, visited many places, met great people, and eaten delicious food all over this beautiful island. Since returning after 23 years, I have once again been struck by the many ties of friendship that bind the United States and Taiwan. Our relationship has never been stronger, and my AIT colleagues and I are doing all we can to make it even better.

In recent weeks, I have followed Taiwan's debate over the safety of U.S. beef with growing concern. When visiting a local beef noodle restaurant, I was surprised to see a caricature of a U.S. cow with a line through it, implying that some U.S. beef products might not be safe to eat. Like you, I watch what I eat, and pay attention to food safety. With that in mind, I thought it would be helpful to provide some additional information on U.S. beef.

Every day, tens of millions of Americans eat exactly the same beef we send to Taiwan and to other markets around the world. There has never been a single proven case of the human version of so-called "Mad Cow" Disease caused by eating American beef.

I have been especially disappointed that some people seem to believe the U.S. wants to export ground beef, offal, and other beef products to Taiwan because Americans don't eat such products themselves. That's simply not true. Just last year, for example, Americans ate 58 percent of the beef offal and internal organs we produced. That's more than 500,000 metric tons of beef products such as tongue, oxtail, cheek meat, liver, and tripe. I personally enjoy beef tongue sandwiches, while my deputy is partial to beef liver and onions, and my father liked to eat tripe. We also ate over 3.5 million metric tons of ground beef. Anyone who has visited the U.S. knows how much we like hamburgers, tacos, and meatloaf. In fact, Americans eat all of the beef products we sell around the world, including to the 27 member states of the European Union, Canada, Norway, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Switzerland, among many others. We would never knowingly send anything unsafe to our friends in Taiwan.

Don't just take my word for it. A key international organization has also recognized the safety of U.S. beef. Taiwan and the United States are both full members of the World Trade Organization, which uses the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) to set safety standards. The OIE, to which the U.S. and Taiwan also belong, supports the safety of U.S. beef and beef products, as does Taiwan's own independent risk assessment. In addition to our own stringent measures to ensure that all American beef and beef products are safe, all U.S. beef exports to Taiwan are also subject to Taiwan's food safety requirements.

For these reasons, I hope our friends in Taiwan will understand why we ask that you honor the beef protocol we signed. We want our trade to grow on the basis of sound science and established international standards.

Thank you for giving me the chance to help clear up some common misunderstandings about U.S. beef. I hope this information, as well as additional material: "Facts about U.S. beef and the Taiwan market" will help you make informed, confident decisions about the food you eat.


Bill Stanton (This letter was published in Chinese in the Apple Daily on December 18, 2009)