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Cablegate: Food Safety Assumes Important Role in Cross-Strait

VZCZCXRO1414
PP RUEHAST RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHPB RUEHPOD RUEHTM
RUEHVC
DE RUEHIN #1548 3080924
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 030924Z NOV 08
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0242
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC

UNCLAS TAIPEI 001548

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

HHS FOR OGHA STEIGER, BHAT AND ABDOO; FDA/CFSAN BREWER,
SUBERA-WIGGIN, WOO AND FDA/OIP J. HO USDA FOR FAS/OSTA
MACKE, LOWER; FAS/OCRA RADLER, BEILLARD,
USTR FOR WINELAND AND STRATFORD
USDOC FOR 3132/USFCS/OIO/EAP

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV TSPL TBIO ECON SOCI KSCA ETRD TW CH
SUBJECT: FOOD SAFETY ASSUMES IMPORTANT ROLE IN CROSS-STRAIT
TALKS

REF: A. BEIJING 4085
B. TAIPEI 1490
C. TAIPEI 1484

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. In advance of his November 3-7 visit to
Taipei, the PRC's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan
Strait (ARATS) Chairman Chen Yunlin made an October 27
written apology (ref a) and an October 30 verbal apology for
the distress caused by exports of Chinese-manufactured
tainted milk products to Taiwan (ref b). The apologies are
likely to help ease public tensions during Chen's talks with
his Taiwan counterpart, Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF)
Chairman Chiang Ping-kun in Taipei this week. The SEF-ARATS
talks are expected to conclude agreements on food safety, in
addition to cross-Strait air/sea links and direct postal
service (ref c). In the wake of the melamine scare, the food
safety agreement will be a major focus of public attention in
Taiwan as it is slated to touch on compensation for melamine
victims and Taiwan's plans to set up a food inspection office
in the PRC. END SUMMARY

CALMING PUBLIC TENSIONS
-----------------------

2. (SBU) In late September, after the PRC notified Taiwan
that a 25-ton shipment of milk powder already on the Taiwan
market contained traces of the industrial chemical melamine,
the Department of Health (DOH) banned all dairy-content food
imports from the PRC and now requires that all dairy products
on the market undergo stringent "non-detectable" (0.05) ppm
melamine tests. In addition, it announced that selected
categories of dairy-based products from all countries would
be subject to the non-detectable melamine test report
requirements. Chen Yunlin made a written apology to Taiwan on
the melamine issue October 27, and followed it with a verbal
apology on the 30th. His apologies were aimed at defusing
some of the ill-feeling generated from the melamine scandal.
The melamine scare resulted in the resignation of
then-Minister of Health Lin Fang-yue, and the DOH changing
its melamine standard from 0.05 ppm to 2.5 ppm and back to
0.05 ppm, causing widespread discontent among local
businesses, who are seeking compensation for losses, and
foreign suppliers, who are balking at the high cost of
meeting a 0.05 ppm tolerance on their products. President Ma
Ying-jeou seems to have alluded to Chen's apologies when he
recently told the media that Chen would not ignore the
melamine issue during his visit to Taipei.

FOOD SAFETY AGREEMENTS
----------------------

3. (SBU) According to the Department of Health, Taiwan
aims to attain the following objectives through the food
safety agreement: stopping the illegal adulteration of food,
establishing a food inspection office in the PRC, and setting
up a compensation policy for Taiwan consumers who ingested
the tainted milk products. Department of Health contacts
told us that the intended food inspection office will follow
the guidelines of the U.S.-China Agreement on Food Safety
signed in December 2007, and will allow Taiwan
representatives to inspect food products before their export
to Taiwan. The prospective agreement will also adopt the
international Codex Alimentarius food safety inspection
mechanism, recognized by 170 members worldwide. Following
the melamine incident, both sides have set up contact points
to exchange information on tainted food, and have been
exchanging information since October 6.
SYOUNG

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