Iowa Public Television


Japanese Ready To Shift On Testing Policy?

posted on April 1, 2005

USDA on Friday announced that Canada, Mexico and the United States have established a framework for risk management of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or Mad Cow disease. The science-based approach was developed to help normalize trade in ruminants and ruminant products. Officials say the framework will help them more effectively address "any BSE risk in North America."

Such agreements amount to baby steps in rebuilding the North American cattle trade on a global basis. The U.S. cattle industry has been frustrated by the slow pace of progress in re-opening the U.S. border to Canadian live cattle ... and the Japanese market to American beef. But progress IS being made, as evidenced by the latest actions from the Pacific Rim.

Japanese Ready To Shift On Testing Policy? A food safety panel in Japan this week recommended the Tokyo government stop testing for Mad Cow disease in cattle younger than 21 months of age. That's a move observers say was necessary to help end Japan's 15-month ban on U.S. beef imports.

Japanese markets were shut off to American beef after the discovery of a single case of Mad Cow in the U.S. in December 2003. As a caveat to re-opening its border, and to quiet domestic food safety fears, Japan initially insisted that the U.S. adopt the same blanket testing policy that it employs.

But experts from Japan's Food Safety Commission now say research has shown that rogue proteins linked to the disease don't show up in younger cattle. Easing Tokyo's stricter testing standards, they said, would NOT pose a risk to Japanese consumers.

At least some of those consumers apparently are ready to see the import ban come to an end. Nearly 1.2 million signatures have been collected on petitions circulated by beef lovers and restaurants urging the government to drop the ban.

Tags: agriculture animals beef cattle diseases food safety Japan livestock Mad Cow meat news trade