The government of the United States is currently involved in discussions with the government of Taiwan to clarify Taiwan's recent decision to begin testing beef imports for the growth promotant ractopamine hydrochloride. While Taiwan has had a zero-tolerance policy in place for several years against the use of ractopamine hydrochloride, Taiwan's Food and Drug Administration began testing Jan. 1, 2011, for versions of this compound in imported beef.

The use of ractopamine hydrochloride is recognized by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) as well as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a safe feed ingredient that helps livestock grow more efficiently and increase the proportion of lean meat to fat. Ractopamine is currently approved by regulatory authorities in 26 countries (including the United States, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, South Korea and others) for its safe use in human food and is under review in others.

Taiwan is sampling at ports of entry, cold storage facilities and retail outlets. Taiwan's FDA has announced finding ractopamine hydrochloride residues in samples of U.S. beef. The Taiwan government's decision to conduct the testing has created uncertainty in the market and caused a slowdown in beef exports to Taiwan.

Through the first 11 months of 2010, the United States exported 35,228 metric tons (77.7 million pounds) of beef valued at $192.7 million, increases of 45 percent in volume and 54 percent in value over 2009. The U.S. also exported 27,693 metric tons (61.1 million pounds) of pork valued at $50.5 million, a decline of 30 percent in volume and 19 percent in value from the prior year.