Guest Post: Japan Intends to Continue With US Beef Imports, Despite The Discovery Of Mad-Cow Disease in California
By Imogen Reed (guest writer)
Beef Imports Continue
Japan has stated that it has no intention of suspending the import of U.S. beef, despite the discovery of so-called ‘mad-cow’ disease in the US state of California, according to officials from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture.
Statement From Agriculture Minister
The director of the ministry’s animal health affairs office, Minoru Yamamoto, made a public statement on the issue declaring, “We are importing beef from the U.S. under rules agreed between the two nations, based on the assumption that mad-cow disease has not yet been eradicated.” Outlining the ongoing plans from the ministry on the issue he added, “We don’t plan to halt imports because of the discovery in the U.S.” This, however, does not mean that there will not be a negative impact as a result of the discovery and planned improvements in the market have been put on hold.
First Case in Six Years
For the first time in six years the disease, which attacks the brain and nervous system of afflicted animals, has been discovered. Officials in the US believe that the discovery has been made relatively early in the process and before it has entered the food chain. This early intervention, which was made as a result of routine tests, was a crucial factor in determining the threat that the disease poses to consumers.
Statement From US Department of Agriculture
Chief veterinarian for the Department of Agriculture in the US, John Clifford, made a statement to the press in Washington, declaring the contamination to be isolated and that the continued ongoing sale of US beef could continue without any need for further measures to contain and handle the disease. The report was made as a result of thorough and rigorous structures that are held in place to contain the outbreak of the disease and not designed to simply protect public image for the enormously valuable US beef market.
Strain Found to be Atypical
Clifford explained that the discovery of the strain of the disease was ‘atypical’ He elaborated by saying that this was a rare format and not one which was generally associated with consumption of infected feed. To support this point, Texas Tech University Professor and epidemiologist, Guy Lonegran explained that it is possible for isolated cases to occur in older animals.
Current Restrictions on US Beef
There are already some restrictions in place on US beef in Japan as a result of the initial discovery of the disease in 2003. At that time US beef was banned altogether from the import market. Sales of the US beef only resumed in 2005 and since then there have been restrictions on the age of the animals in order to limit the possibility of procuring contaminated beef. Currently only cattle of 20 months, or younger, can be imported from the US into Japan. Cattle above this age has a much higher risk of being infected with the disease.
Plans to Relax Restrictions
Ironically the Japanese Ministry of Health was planning to relax the restrictions on the imports of beef as a result of the fact that levels of the disease have receded internationally in recent years. The lowering of these restrictions, which had been sanctioned by the Japanese Food Safety Commission, is now not thought likely to go ahead. The news is yet another setback for the already embattled US farming community. The relaxation on the restrictions would have seen the age of import cattle raised to 30 months, creating a huge increase in the market for US cattle farmers. A panel held a series of meetings to discuss the proposed changes with a view to delaying any immediate alterations until the full extent of the disease was clear.
Senior Director at the Tokyo office of the US Meat Export Federation was not confident that there would be a quick resolution to the problem. He stated, “The latest mad-cow case in the U.S. may delay Japan’s decision-making process, as experts at the Food Safety Commission will probably take time to examine it.”
Continued Market Increase
Despite the current restrictions the Japanese market accounts for a large percentage of US beef exports sitting just behind Mexico and Canada in the quantity of beef it imports. It was anticipated the amount of beef it imported from the US would increase by as much as 24% in 2012 to 150,000 metric tonnes in a continued pattern of expansion which has seen it rise year on year for more than half a decade.
NOTE: from Mike. This won't affect our family at all. For health reasons, we stopped long ago eating USA produced beef because it is full of chemicals and growth hormones. We stopped eating Japanese grown beef because of the radioactive feed scandal. We stopped eating Aussie steak because we saw that many "steaks" from Australia being sold were pieces of meat stuck together to look like steak... Now? We only eat healthy wholesome grass fed steak from New Zealand. Get this: It's even cheaper than American, Aussie or Japanese steak.