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From: TSS ()
Subject: Japan panel worried U.S. feed rules may spread BSE (USA MAD COW PROBLEM COULD BE SIMILAR TO BRITAIN)
Date: August 24, 2005 at 9:24 am PST

Japan panel worried U.S. feed rules may spread BSE
Wed Aug 24, 2005 6:06 AM ET

By Aya Takada
TOKYO (Reuters) - Members of an independent panel considering whether to allow U.S. beef to return to Japanese tables said on Wednesday they were worried that lax U.S. animal feed controls could allow mad cow disease to spread.

The panel members, meeting for the fifth time since May when the Japanese government asked them to rule on the safety of U.S. beef, said their final decision may take into account the chance that the brain-wasting disease could spread.

Without approval from the 12-member group, a sub-committee of Japan's Food Safety Commission, the government cannot implement an agreement with the United States to resume imports.

"We cannot completely rule out the possibility that the situation in the United States may become similar to what happened in Britain," panel member Tetsuyuki Kitamoto said at the meeting, which was open to the public.

Mad cow disease -- formally bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) -- crippled Britain's farm sector in the late 1990s.

Kitamoto said U.S. cattle may be at risk because meat-and-bone meal (MBM) produced from cattle was still being used in the United States.

MBM produced from cattle, banned in Japan as a feed for all animals, is thought to cause mad cow disease.

The U.S Food and Drug Administration banned MBM made from cattle as cattle feed in 1997 but did not ban its use as a feed for other animals such as pigs and poultry.

U.S. consumer groups have urged the FDA to fully ban MBM made from cattle, saying that cattle feed could become contaminated.

Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human version of BSE, is thought to be spread by eating contaminated meat. It has caused more than 140 deaths worldwide, including one in Japan.


Kazuya Yamanouchi, another panel member, proposed that the panel make a risk assessment on U.S. beef that included the possibility that BSE could spread.

Yasuhiro Yoshikawa, the panel chairman, said he personally did not expect BSE to spread, but added that he would consider the proposal by next meeting.

The FSC said the date of the next meeting had not yet been set and that it was uncertain when the panel would complete its risk assessment on U.S. beef.

Japan, along with other beef-importing countries, imposed a ban on U.S. beef in December 2003 following the discovery of the first case of mad cow disease in a Washington state dairy cow.

The second U.S. BSE case was confirmed in June in a beef cow born 12 years ago and raised in Texas.

Before the ban, Japan was the top importer of American beef, with imports valued at $1.4 billion in 2003.

Last October, Japan agreed with the United States to resume imports of beef from American cattle aged 20 months or younger, which are considered to be at low risk from BSE.

But Tokyo has insisted that shipments cannot resume until the commission declares that U.S. beef is as safe as domestic meat.

U.S. lawmakers have expressed growing frustration with Japan's slowness in reopening its market, and some have proposed that Washington consider trade sanctions.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns reiterated that Japan should soon restart U.S. beef imports when he met Japanese Agriculture Minister Mineichi Iwanaga last week in Australia, where five farm ministers from major agricultural exporters and importers gathered to discuss trade issues.

© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.


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