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Japan Says Science Will Determine Fate Of U.S. Beef

02 April 2007

JAPAN - Japan Vice Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Yoshio Kobayashi said Thursday that accurate scientific data, not pressure from Washington, should be the determining factor in whether his country decides to remove current restrictions on U.S. beef.

"It is important that the issue of food safety be resolved based on scientific evidence," Kobayashi said, responding to President Bush's remarks Wednesday to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association in which he indicated that Tokyo should fully open its market to U.S. beef, an issue Bush said he would broach when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits in April.

The Kyodo News Service reports that USDA, to no avail, has been pressing Japan to raise the age limit on cattle slaughtered for its beef imports from 20 months to 30 months. The World Organization for Animal Health's preliminary classification of the United States as a "controlled risk" for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, which would pave the way for U.S. processors to export beef from cattle of any age, also hasn't swayed Tokyo.

"It's too early to rethink the beef import restrictions because inspections (of U.S. meatpacking plants) and other probes have yet to be completed," Kobayashi said.

Japan, as reported by Bloomberg, represented half of the $3.8 billion in annual U.S. exports that was eliminated in December 2003, when a total of 60 nations banned U.S. beef following the discovery of a case of BSE in Washington State.

Japan eased the ban in December 2005, but tightened it again the next month after banned spinal bones were detected in a veal shipment. In July 2006, Tokyo relaxed the rules again, but resolved to allow only meat from cattle younger than 21 months of age.

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Source: Wisconsin Ag Connection


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