Thailand urges US to stop threatening its consumer health

The Thai Swine Raisers Association are urging the US to cease trade pressure, stating that Thailand’s food safety standard is under threat
calendar icon 29 May 2018
clock icon 5 minute read

In a report from the Thai Swine Raisers Association, it is claimed that the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has been putting pressure on the Thai government to lift its US pork ban, forcing Thailand to choose between securing USD 4.2 billion worth trade deal and the health of its consumers.

Last week, The USTR office accepted the request from National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) to reconsider Thailand’s trade benefit under the US Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), a tariff privilege that gives a competitive advantage to over 1,000 Thai products in US market.

The US pork council wants Thai government to eliminate its restriction on US uncooked meat, allowing them to gain full access to the market. Mr Jim Heimerl, President of NPPC, cited ‘unfair treatment’ as the reason behind the council’s petition.

“Thailand’s treatment of US pork provides a clear basis for removing or limiting its GSP benefits,” Heimerl said.

US pork was been banned by Thailand due to the use of Ractopamine, a feed additive commonly used by US pork producers to encourage muscle leanness and enhance growth rate in pigs. The Thai government claims that there is not enough evidence to prove that the drug is safe for consumers in the long term.

The Upside
Dr Chaiyapoom Bunchasak, Associate Professor from Department of Animal Science Faculty of Agriculture at Kasetsart University, was recently quoted in Thaipost earlier this month, saying that the drug helps pigs to generate more protein and, therefore, rapidly enhances pig growth rates, helping the farmers to lower the cost of operation and maximising the productivity.

Ractopamine is also approved by The Codex Alimentarius Commission, the internationally recognised food standard setter, at a limited amount.

The Downside
Dr Chaiyapoom added that Thailand has long held a zero-tolerance policy on the use of beta-agonists (including Ractopamine). Moreover, the drug is still restricted or banned in 160 countries, such as members of the European Union, China and Russia.

“The effect of Ractopamine residue in humans is still unknown, however, the drug has been linked to several harmful impacts in livestock, such as agitation, dyspnea, cardiac rates, stress, motor disabilities and death.

“It is also important for consumers to know that the drug can pose great dangers to consumers with a history of heart disease and high blood pressure.”

Not suitable for Thai dishes
Mr Prayad Thirawong, lecturer at Kasetsart University and animal husbandry expert, recently wrote an article in SiamRath, a Thai newspaper, describing US pig offal as “a ticking time bomb” for other countries. He noted that the higher concentration of Ractopamine residue can be found in pig organs such as liver and intestine than the other cuts of meat.

As a result, this could pose a great risk when Thai dishes are often made of internal organs and half-cooked meat.

Impact on the local Industry
Mr Prayad added that some pig meat, especially that considered to be “unwanted” in US market, such as the head, giblets and offal, will flood into Thailand where the food safety is the top priority for everyone.

He pointed out that the Thai government and private sectors have been working together to ensure consumers food safety.

“They have been working for 20 years to make consumers aware of the danger from beta-agonists as well as eliminating the illegal use of the drugs throughout product chain.”

With regards to the impacts on local pig farmers, the US pressure is viewed by the people in the industry as a unilateral attempt to take over the local market with substandard products.

It will cost inevitable damage to almost 200,000 pig farmers who raise 18 million pigs annually and will harm related businesses, such as feed producers, corn farmers and medical suppliers.

Mr Prasit Luangmanee, a pig farmer from Roi Et Province, explained that the Thai pig market is facing a huge oversupply.

“US pork will only more add misery to the local farmers who suffered from declining price for 10 months.

“Pig farmers are completely voiced against US pork. Roi Et people should eat Roi Et’s pork, Thai people should eat Thai pork – Trump is protecting his farmers, our Prime Minister should do the same,” Mr Prasit urged the Prime Minister.

In the end, the fate of Thai pig industry is clearly in a dilemma. The Thai Government has set up a working group to consider the risk from US pork and may have to wait for a year to make a decision.

As reported by the Thai Swine Raisers Association

Emily Houghton

Editor, The Pig Site

Emily Houghton is a Zoology graduate from Cardiff University and was the editor of The Pig Site from October 2017 to May 2020. Emily has worked in livestock husbandry, and has written, conducted and assisted with research projects regarding the synthesis of welfare and productivity of free-range food species.

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