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Japan border opening still months away

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Feb 10, 2005
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Southern Manitoba
Japan eases mad cow tests
By Aya Takada | May 6, 2005

TOKYO (Reuters) - Under mounting pressure from the United States to ease a ban on American beef, Japan decided on Friday to drop its policy of testing all cattle for mad cow disease, moving a step closer to restarting imports.


The resumption of beef trade, however, remains distant as Japan could spend several months reviewing U.S. safety measures against the disease before lifting the 16-month-old ban.

The government formalised the decision to adopt an easier policy after getting official approval from Japan's Food Safety Commission (FSC) to exclude cattle younger than 21 months from mad cow testing.

Approval of the new policy by the food safety watchdog was a precondition for Japan to implement an October 2004 agreement with the United States to resume imports of American beef from cattle aged below 21 months without requiring mad cow testing.

Cattle below the age of 21 months are considered to be at low risk from the fatal brain-wasting disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

Japan banned U.S. beef in December 2003 after the discovery of the first U.S. BSE case. Before the ban, Japan was the top importer of American beef, buying $1.4 billion worth in 2003.

Washington has expressed frustration with Japan's slowness in carrying out the agreement to restart imports, prompting some U.S. lawmakers to call for retaliatory sanctions against Japan.

Japan's policy of blanket BSE testing started in October 2001 after it discovered its first case of mad cow disease.

The strict measure was aimed at alleviating safety concerns among consumers. Beef sales in Japan plunged more than 50 percent as consumers shunned beef for fear of contracting Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, the human form of mad cow disease.


In March an FSC subcommittee compiled a report that said excluding young cattle from BSE testing would hardly raise the risk of contamination and pose a minor risk to human health.

The FSC then sought opinions from the general public on the report, and about 70 percent of 1,250 letters sent to the commission were against ending blanket BSE testing.

"We need to explain more about the issue to calm public concerns," Tadao Terao, the deputy chairman of the commission, said at a meeting on Friday.

The government plans to ask the FSC later this month to approve Japanese resumption of U.S. beef imports.

After receiving the government's request, the FSC will then launch a review of U.S. safety measures against mad cow disease to determine whether they meet Japanese standards, a process that could take several months.

While the U.S. and Japanese governments have been urging the FSC to make a quick decision, Japanese consumer groups want the commission to be cautious, as they believe U.S. beef safety checks are too loose compared with those of Japan.

The Japanese government cannot intervene directly in the decisions of the FSC -- an independent body of experts created in 2003 to conduct risk assessment on food scientifically and to make policy recommendations to relevant ministries.

While welcoming the Japanese move to ease BSE testing, the United States wants Tokyo to do more to normalize beef trade.

In a letter sent last month to the FSC, the U.S. government encouraged Japan to raise the age threshold for BSE testing to 30 months in line with the internationally accepted standard. The proposal was made amid complaints from the U.S. cattle industry that beef exports to Japan would be limited to a small number of very young cattle under the October agreement.
"formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)."

ok, who officially change the name of BSE?????

Statements like this also prove just how much a reporter did their research and their own bias.

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