Japan Insists US Mad Cow Regulations Insufficient

by 5m Editor
22 April 2004, at 12:00am

US - The focus of a disagreement between the U.S. and Japan centered on the risk of the disease in cattle under 30 months of age. The tension was apparently sparked off by two mad cow cases reported in Japan.

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For months, American consumers have been assured that cattle under 30 months of age are unlikely to contract the disease.

That assurance is the foundation for the Agriculture Department's trade policies and the expanded mad cow surveillance program to test high-risk cattle.

30 months was also cited as the cutoff age for special handling of meat, according to the U.S. government's stricter slaughterhouse regulations.

However, Japanese officials say they have found two mad cow cases in their country involving animals under the age of 30 months.

Thus, America's insistence that cattle under 30 months of age are not at risk for mad cow disease is a "serious concern" for his country, Sato Tadashi, agriculture attache at the Japanese Embassy in Washington, said on Tuesday.

"They think it is safe, but our experience shows it is not the case," Tadashi said.

Japan has banned American beef imports ever since the first, and only, diseased U.S. cow was discovered in December. It had been America's top-dollar beef customer before the ban.

J.B. Penn, U.S. undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services, will visit Japan this weekend for talks on import prohibitions.

Jerome Nietfeld, a veterinarian at Kansas State University's veterinary diagnostic lab, stated that nobody is trying to downplay the age issue for the general public in the United States.

"Whether or not to test animals under 30 months is really a political question," Nietfeld said. "The only real reason to test everything for human consumption is to open export markets, because that is what Japan does and they do not want to accept anything else."

U.S. regulators question the validity of the Japanese testing.

The Japanese say they found a 21-month-old steer with mad cow disease on Nov. 5, and a 23-month-old with the disease on Oct. 6. The World Organization for Animal Health, which tracks bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, globally, recorded the two cases among the 11 Japanese cases that have been listed. The other nine cases involved animals over 30 months of age.

Ron DeHaven, the new administrator of the Agriculture Department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said last week the two cases tested positive on two of the three types of tests. They were negative on the more precise immunohistochemistry test.

DeHaven said there was no international consensus on whether the two young Japanese animals were positive for mad cow disease.

Source: eFeedLink - 22nd April 2004

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