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Japan experts concerned about mad cow rule change:

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PORKER

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Europe ; Japan experts concerned about mad cow rule change:

April 8, 2005



[Europe News] TOKYO, A Japanese government panel on mad cow disease expressed concerns on Friday about a proposal from an international animal health body that countries should not use the disease as an excuse to restrict trade in boneless beef.



The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), a Paris-based organisation of 167 member countries that addresses safety issues related to livestock, would submit the proposal at its general assembly from May 22 to 27, Japanese government officials said.


OIE standards have no binding force, but they could be used as grounds to settle trade disputes argued before the World Trade Organisation, for instance if the United States brings a case against Japan over a prolonged Japanese ban on American beef.



Japan banned beef imports from the United States in December 2003 after the discovery of the first U.S. case of mad cow disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).



Before the ban, Japan was the top overseas customer for U.S. beef, buying $1.4 billion worth in 2003.



Washington has expressed frustration Japan's beef ban was still in place despite an agreement to re-open the market. Some U.S. lawmakers have called for retaliatory sanctions against Japan.



Japan agreed last October to resume imports of U.S. beef from cattle aged below 21 months without requiring mad cow testing, as young cattle are considered to be at low risk from the disease.



Japan has said it cannot implement the agreement before it obtains approval from Japan's independent Food Safety Commission, which is expected to spend several months to check if U.S. mad cow safety measures meet Japanese standards.



Both the United States and Japan are OIE members.



In a draft proposal, OIE said veterinary administrations should not require any BSE-related conditions when authorising import or transit of deboned skeletal muscle meat from cattle which were not subjected to a stunning or pithing process.



Mechanically separated meat are exempted from this rule.



OPPOSITION



Under the current OIE standards, importers can require mad cow testing or other safeguard measures when they buy beef from countries where BSE is found.



Japanese experts who attended the BSE panel meeting on Friday said the OIE proposal was based on an outdated view that boneless meat is free from BSE-causing prions -- the protein-like fragments that transmit the disease.



"The proposal does not reflect the latest scientific knowledge," said Kazuya Yamanouchi, who is also a member of the BSE subcommittee of Japan's Food Safety Commission.



Yamanouchi and other panel members said BSE-causing prions were detected in peripheral nerves in recent research.



The OIE proposal is in line with the United States' view.



The United States has urged countries that have banned American beef due to mad cow disease to accept imports of boneless beef. Taiwan will begin allowing on April 16 imports of U.S. boneless beef from animals slaughtered under 30 months of age.



The Japanese government would decide its official stance on the OIE proposal based on opinions from the expert panel as well as consumers, farmers and the food industry, officials said.



Agriculture Minister Yoshinobu Shimamura said given stiff consumer opposition to relaxing mad cow safety measures, it would be difficult for Japan to support the proposal.



"We have to act by fully considering consumers' opinions," Shimamura was quoted by a ministry official as saying at a news conference on Friday.
 

Murgen

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Japan has said it cannot implement the agreement before it obtains approval from Japan's independent Food Safety Commission, which is expected to spend several months to check if U.S. mad cow safety measures meet Japanese standards

Just wondering why Japan's government should need to override agencies put in place, when the US government (USDA) has to abide by court rulings etc.? Should the Japan populate not have the same rights as the US citizens to abide by courts, without the threat of sanctions, from foriegn countries?
 
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