Taiwan said Friday that it will allow imports of US beef on the bone in a controversial move criticised by some lawmakers and activists for ignoring mad cow disease concerns.
"The Department of Health will allow other US beef products after ruling out any safely concern," it said in a statement without giving the timeframe.
An official at the department said that by "other" beef products, it meant bone-in beef and intestines.
All future imports will be from cows aged 30 months or younger and will be required to pass US quality control, it said.
The United Evening News said the new measure will take effect in late October and the first shipment of bone-in US beef is expected to arrive in the island as early as November 10.
Taiwan banned US beef imports in December 2003 due to reports of mad cow disease in the country but opened up to boneless beef products in 2006.
The latest decision drew criticism from some consumer rights advocates and lawmakers, who said Taipei should not give in to pressure from Washington.
"The government bow to American pressure to disregard people's lives. We condemn the decision," said the Consumers' Foundation in a statement, demanding that health authorities put warning labels on US bone-in beef products.
Lawmakers from the ruling and opposition parties blamed the health department for lifting the ban without their consent.
"We demand the health minister resign if he made the call... The measure should be suspended before the parliament gives its approval," said Lu Hsueh-chang of the ruling Kuomintang.
The US de facto embassy, the American Institute in Taiwan, said it welcomed the decision, which it called "science-based and consistent with World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) guidelines".
Taiwan bought 55 million US dollars' worth of US beef in 2002 and 76.5 million dollars in 2003 before the first ban.
Beef affected by the disease is feared to cause in humans a variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.