Denny Lee（China Productivity Center Agricultural Innovation Department）
The import of pork containing ractopamine (commonly known as Clenbuterol) was opened on January 1, 2021. The policy has aroused heated debates since its announcement. The Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW), with the view of protecting the rights of consumers, has formulated regulations for the labeling of the origins of pork related materials. Information on the origins of pork and edible parts of pigs in transparent packaging, in bulk, and directly supplied by catering establishments should be disclosed on labels, to help consumers make their choices. In order to assist eateries, supermarkets and other operators with the labeling, MOHW, together with the Council of Agriculture (COA), and local governments, announced many forms of marks and labels. Some operators were confused as to make errors on the labeling, and consumers often find cases of misunderstanding. This article collects and analyzes the practices of pork material origin labeling to help the operators and consumers to correctly identify the labels.
Principles and Methods of Pork Material Origin Labeling
To ensure a clear understanding of the pork labeling, we must first understand the principles and methods of labeling. The first step is to understand the kinds of pork products that require place-of-origin labeling. There are two major categories:
1. The first category: Pork products that are fresh, refrigerated, frozen or simply cut or processed and edible in the original shape, such as fresh pork, pork offal, lard (oil), etc.
2. The second category: Pork products that are cooked or processed with pork, lard and edible parts of pigs as raw materials, such as sausages, hot dogs, hot pot ingredients, meat buns, meatballs, etc.
Products not in the above two categories, such as extracts, spices, collagen and other products made through processes of extraction, hydrolysis, purification, etc., are not in the scope of the labeling. But what exactly does “origin” of the pork materials mean? That is defined as the country where the pigs were slaughtered. For example, for a batch of pigs raised in the Netherlands but slaughtered in Taiwan for sale in the market, the place of origin on the label is Taiwan. For a batch of pigs slaughtered in the Netherlands, the place of origin on the label is the Netherlands.
With these in mind, we will move on to introduce how the labeling is processed. Basically, the method of labeling varies according to the mode of sales. The three modes are packaged food, supplies in catering establishments, and bulk food. The following is a brief introduction:
1. Packaged food: This covers products in complete packaging, such as pork floss, pork jerky, frozen dumplings, instant noodles, etc. Products of this type produced after January 1, 2021 need to have the place of origin of the pork materials labeled on the outer packaging. The place of origin of the pork materials should be clearly described in the section of content or in an added section (as shown in the photos below), and the font of the characters should not be less than 0.2 cm in width and length.
2. Supplies in catering establishments: At places serving food for direct consumption, such as restaurants, deli shops in supermarkets, food stalls, etc., labeling can be done through menus, sign boards, stickers or cards, etc. The font of the characters should not be less than 0.4 cm in width and length on menus, and should not be less than 2 cm in width and length on other labels.
3. Bulk food: For fresh or frozen pork products in traditional meat stalls, supermarkets, and ham cut and sold at counters, etc, labeling can be done on hung or posted posters, notice boards, or sticking labels. The font of the characters should not be less than 02 cm in width and length on sticking labels, and should not be less than 2 cm in width and length on other labels Where the pork products are sold with traceability certificate or with the CAS label, there’s no need to repeatedly label the place of origin.
In addition to the above, products containing pork materials from multiple countries should be labeled in the descending order of the proportion of content. For example, sausage with 90% pork from Taiwan, 5% lard from Canada, and 4% sausage casing from Spain should be labeled in the order of Taiwan→Canada→Spain. Finally, a batch of pork products with multiple places of origin may have all the places of origin printed on the stickers with the labeling done by checking on the stickers when the sources are determined.
Common Formats of Pork Product Labeling
For business operators, the most convenient labeling of pork products is to adopt the designs of the government agencies. There are a total of about 20 designs to choose from. Operators are reminded to observe the specifications introduced in the previous paragraphs to ensure correct adoption. The following is a brief list of common label styles for your reference:
1. Ministry of Health and Welfare Taiwan Pork Sticker
2. Ministry of Health and Welfare Stickers for Imported Pork
3. Ministry of Health and Welfare pork labeling stickers
4. Pork labeling stickers of local governments
In addition to the examples mentioned above, operators can design their own labels to disclose the source of pig raw materials used in their pork products. Fake labeling is subject to a fine of NT$40,000 to NT$4 million. Finally, if the pork products used are all made of domestic materials, the operator may apply for the official Taiwan Pork label issued by the Council of Agriculture. Upon approval, the labels will be issued by COA so the operators need not bother with printing them. COA also has an online map for the convenience of the public to search for the addresses of Taiwan Pork shops.
Official Taiwan Pork Label (Photo courtesy: National Animal Industry Foundation)
The import of pork containing ractopamine has caused the misunderstanding that all imported pork contains ractopamine. As a matter of fact, there are only 26 countries allowing ractopamine, such as the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc. Another 160 countries, including those of the European Union and Russia prohibit the use. This article explains the related labeling regulations with the hope that operators strictly follow the regulations and consumers correctly identify the place of origin of pork products and minimize the chance of taking pork that contains ractopamine. It is also hoped that the pork industry in Taiwan can take this opportunity to further its effort to pursue modernization in terms of technologies of breeding, slaughtering, and cold chain so as to achieve higher competitiveness in the international market.