Written reply by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, to Parliamentary Question on the Maximum Residue Limits for Ractopamine, on 2 November 2020
Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong: To ask the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment (a) what is the rationale for SFA’s latest revised position on the maximum residue limits for ractopamine in pork and cattle imported into Singapore; (b) what are the known and possible health risks arising from consuming meat with such residue limits of ractopamine including risks for young people or any vulnerable group; and (c) whether SFA is concerned that ractopamine is banned in various other countries.
1 Importers of meat and meat products are required to ensure that the food they import comply with the regulatory standards set by SFA, so as to ensure that the food is safe for consumption. These standards include the maximum residue limits for substances found in the food. When considering new regulatory standards or when reviewing existing regulatory standards, SFA takes reference from international standards-setting bodies such as the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex), which was established by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
2 Ractopamine is an additive that is used in animal feed to promote growth in approved food animal species, namely pig and cattle which are raised for their meat for human consumption. The Codex had considered the safety of ractopamine before adopting the existing maximum residue limits for ractopamine in meat and other organs. Codex’s scientific expert panel, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), had conducted comprehensive risk assessments in 1993, 2004, 2006 and 2010 which studied the toxicity of ractopamine, the levels of residue found in food animals that were fed with ractopamine and the amount of ractopamine consumed by humans as a result of consuming meat and other organs from these animals. JECFA concluded from these assessments that ractopamine is safe for use in food production. SFA’s decision to align to the Codex standards for ractopamine in meat and other organs was made only after careful consideration, taking into account the safety assessments done by JECFA as well as SFA.
3 Based on these safety assessments, the intake of ractopamine through residues in meat and other organs within the regulated limits set by SFA would not pose a health risk, even if the meat and other organs are consumed over a long period of time.
4 Countries set their own standards based on their own risk assessments and considerations and it would be inappropriate for us to comment on them. Although it is not mandatory for countries to align their standards with Codex standards, it is important to note that the Codex standards have been recognised as reference standards for international trade under the World Trade Organisation’s Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures. While some countries have banned ractopamine, many other countries including developed ones such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and Canada have adopted similar limits for ractopamine as Singapore.
5 SFA will continue to monitor the scientific developments on the safety of ractopamine and will review our regulations where necessary to safeguard food safety and public health.