Taiwanese lawmakers voted in support of three amendments allowing the government to adopt maximum residue levels (MRLs) for ractopamine in beef, according to the American Meat Institute (AMI).

The move follows recent adoption of MRLs for ractopamine by Codex Alimentarius, the World Trade Organization body responsible for setting international food standards, guidelines and codes of practice which help ensure fairness of international food trade.

The move could lead to restoration of market access for U.S. beef in a matter of weeks.  The amendments make clear that the action does not apply to pork, however. 

“Taiwan continues to unfairly restrict U.S. pork exports from hogs fed ractopamine, which is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 25 other countries and the U.N.’s food-safety standards-setting body,” according to a statement from the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC). “Taiwan’s entry into the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations should hinge on it eliminating that barrier.”

Earlier this year after the Taiwanese government announced they were considering the adoption the MRL’s on beef, a government spokesman explained that the decision to separate imports of pork and beef was made to protect the domestic pig industry.

The Taiwanese government in 2007 notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) that it would establish a MRL for ractopamine in pork, based on the MRL proposed by the Codex Alimentarius.

U.S. pork exports have suffered because of Taiwan’s restrictions. “There is no scientific basis for the ractopamine restriction, and Taiwan violates its WTO obligations by upholding such a ban,” according to NPPC.

Meanwhile, leaving the ban on U.S. pork in place creates a double standard by acknowledging that ractopamine residue in beef is safe for human consumption. The issue also costs U.S. pork producers lost revenue. Lifting the ractopamine ban would increase U.S. pork exports by about $240 million, according to analysis by Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes.

“There is no scientific reason for Taiwan to set residual levels of a certain additive for beef but not for pork,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) earlier this year when Taiwan announced it was considering altering its stance on the MRL issue on beef. “I hope Taiwan’s announcement was just a first step in the right direction toward more removal of the trade barriers hurting U.S. farmers.”

Under the amendments, the Department of Health (DOH) will conduct batch-by-batch border inspection and testing on imports of beef and products from countries that permit ractopamine use for cattle, and will  enhance surveillance of residues in marketed meat products.

“We are pleased that Taiwan is following Codex’s lead in moving toward adoption of MRLs,” said AMI Vice President of International Trade William Westman. “This action reflects the scientific consensus and will help facilitate beef trade.”