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U.S. Beef Industry Leaders Make Unprecedented Trip To Japan

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

WASHINGTON, DC – Delegation Members Says U.S. Beef Is Safe, Offer Information to Help Reestablish Trade

A delegation of U.S. beef industry leaders made an unprecedented trip to Tokyo, Japan this week to meet with government and industry leaders in hopes that additional information and assurances can speed the reestablishment of beef trade between the United States and Japan.

Swift & Co., Inc. Accompanying these executives on the trip are J. Patrick Boyle, president and CEO, American Meat Institute; Philip M. Seng, president and CEO, U.S. Meat Export Federation and Terry Stokes, CEO, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

“We are honored to be in Japan to offer our personal assurances that we are taking extensive efforts to ensure that U.S. cattle and beef are among the safest in the world,“ Boyle said. “More than a decade before we detected our first and only case, the U.S. was more proactive than any other nation in building firewalls to prevent BSE, and to detect it if it did exist. Our response to a single case in an imported animal exceeded international standards. We believe we have earned the trust of the Japanese government, our customers and the Japanese consumer.“

In October, the U.S. and Japan agreed to an official framework for restarting trade. This industry delegation has come to Japan to inquire about the status of the agreement’s implementation and to respond to questions and concerns in hope that the effort will speed implementation.

In meetings with Japanese officials, the delegation stressed the following points:

  • The U.S. response to a single case of BSE exceeds what is required under international guidelines set by the Office of International Epizootics (OIE).

  • Under OIE guidelines, the U.S. is considered “provisionally free“ of BSE. In another year after feed controls have been in place for a full eight years, the U.S. will be classified BSE-free.

  • The United States had prepared for a case of BSE more than a decade before one was actually detected. The U.S. triple firewall strategy of import controls, cattle feed restrictions and aggressive surveillance has worked effectively to prevent the disease in cattle and to maintain a safe beef supply.

  • Since June 2004, nearly 150,000 tests have been done on cattle classified “higher risk“ and all have been negative. This is more than half the planned number of tests for the enhanced surveillance program. This testing program was designed by scientific experts to detect BSE at a level of one in ten million with a 99 percent confidence rate. The United States has a 100-million head cattle herd.

Members of the delegation also told officials that they were encouraged that Japan was changing its requirement that all cattle be tested for BSE, because leading experts say BSE cannot be detected in animals under 30 months of age. These experts also say that removing any material that can pose a risk (“specified risk materials“ or SRMs) is the best way to ensure beef safety.

“Removing any material that may pose a risk is required by law and overseen by federal inspectors, who are in beef plants at all times,“ Boyle noted. “It is important to remember that our aggressive surveillance system has detected just one case. Experts in risk assessment at Harvard University studied our system and say that the risk a single case of BSE poses is so low it can scarcely be quantified."

Source: American Meat Institute (AMI) - 22nd December 2004

5m Editor