Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska plans to introduce legislation next week that would end U.S imports of Japanese beef unless Japan opens its market to American beef. Japan closed its borders late in 2003 when a Washington state cow tested positive for mad cow disease. Prior to the ban, Japan was the most lucrative export market for U.S. beef, purchasing about $1.4 million worth annually. And Nebraska was the top beef-exporting state. Japan lifted the ban briefly in 2005, but then closed its borders again when inspectors found spinal bones in a small shipment of beef from New York. This week Japan announced it will allow 2,000 tons of American beef held up at Japanese ports for the past four months to be sold at local markets once the ban is lifted. But increased Japanese concerns over the safety of U.S. meat now appear to be crossing over to the pork industry.
Japan buys about 750 (M) million pounds of U.S. pork muscle a year – about 45 percent of all U.S. pork exports. So when the Asian country imposes new food import standards this week, the U.S. pork industry must comply or risk losing a valuable market.
The new rules – based on international standards established by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization – include: Changing the maximum residue limits on all food products for 799 feed additives, veterinary drugs and agriculture chemicals. The old standards placed limits on just 283 substances.
Producers also may have to stop giving hogs these additives for a longer time before slaughter to meet the new limits. But the National Pork Board says U.S. pork producers adhering to animal health product withdrawal standards set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration would satisfy most of the new Japanese guidelines.
Japan has been developing the new regulations for more than three years, but it's been just within the past 60 days that pork industry leaders received specifics about the new limits. The industry has been working with packers, processors and manufacturers to comply with the new regulations.