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Japan questions U.S. BSE testing

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Mar 2, 2005
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Japan questions U.S. BSE testing

Tam Moore
Oregon Staff Writer

Resumption of U.S. beef shipments to Japan remains up in the air, and there are conflicting reports about that country's relaxation of bovine spongiform encephalopathy inspection rules.

The Japanese Food Safety Commission, which set the old rule of 100 percent BSE testing of all cattle slaughtered for human consumption, on July 14 received an analysis of how the 20 positive BSE cases in that country would have tested under U.S. standards. It concluded that nine BSE positive animals would have never been found if they had happened in the United States.

The U.S. testing standard is triggered when cattle show visible symptoms of a central nervous system disease, when the animal can't walk, or if an older animal dies of unexplained causes. In Japan, the 100 percent testing found mild indications of BSE in a couple of animals less than 30 months old, as well as in some with no clinical sign of the fatal brain-wasting disease.

The proposed Japanese BSE testing standard would exempt animals less than 21 months old from testing.

Some reports indicated the Food Safety Commission had adopted the standard effective Aug. 1, but that prefectures, similar to states, retained 100 percent testing requirements.

The Associated Press said the 21-month rule isn't a done deal, and quoted Agriculture Minister Yoshinobu Shimamura as saying July 15 that he wants "a good decision promptly."

Until the December 2003 confirmation of a BSE cow in the United States, Japan had been the best-paying customer of U.S. beef exports.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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