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From: TSS ()
Date: April 17, 2006 at 6:38 am PST

Japan awaits BSE test result on 20-month-old steer

Mon Apr 17, 2006 6:14am ET

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan is conducting tests on a 20-month-old steer suspected of having mad cow disease, a top government official said on Monday, and the case could have wide repercussions on Tokyo's beef trade policy if confirmed.

When Tokyo last December eased a ban on beef imports from the United States and Canada, imposed after the two countries reported cases of mad cow disease, it stipulated that the meat could only come from cattle aged up to 20 months.

The ceiling was set because mad cow disease, formally called bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), had never been found in Japan in an animal younger than 21 months.

Japan has so far confirmed 24 cases of mad cow disease, a Farm Ministry official said. The regional government of Fukushima prefecture, northern Japan, said over the weekend that it had discovered a 20-month-old castrated Holstein that had tested positive for BSE in initial tests.

An official with the regional government said the carcass had been sent to a government institution for detailed tests, which were expected to be completed this week.

Vice Agriculture Minister Mamoru Ishihara said he had heard that the chances of the detailed tests confirming that the animal had BSE were low, adding that he did not like to comment on what was still inconclusive.

Ishihara said, however, that Tokyo would have to review its domestic policy if BSE is confirmed in the animal.

"Moreover, this would be the kind of thing that will influence the terms of U.S. and Canadian (beef) exports," he told a news conference.

Tokyo again halted U.S. beef imports in January, just a month after it partially lifted the two-year ban, when banned spinal material, thought to pose a higher risk of carrying the disease, was found in a veal shipment from New York. Continued...

The two countries are currently in talks to set the terms for a resumption of beef trade, although no timetable has been set for its restart.

The United States was one of the top suppliers of beef to Japan before Tokyo imposed the ban in December 2003, exporting about 240,000 tonnes that year, valued at $1.4 billion.

Separately, Canada continues to export beef to Japan, and Ishihara said the confirmation of a fifth case of BSE in Canada over the weekend would not influence Japan's policy.

"There is no problem with food safety as long as Canada follows export conditions," Ishihara said.

Canada, a minor beef exporter to Japan even before the ban was imposed in May 2003, shipped about 62 tonnes of beef between December and February, a farm ministry official said.

Many Japanese consumers are sensitive to issues of food safety, including mad cow disease. A human form of the brain-wasting disease has been blamed for the deaths of more than 160 people worldwide, including one in Japan.

YEP, GWs BSE MRR policy (the legal trading of all strains of mad cow i.e. TSE globally) will most definately come back to haunt all of us in the years to come. THIS policy which was forced fed to just about everyone when the USA, Canada, and Mexico started complaining to the OIE about trade after the first few cases of BSE, and then the OIE folded and gave in, this policy should be revoked around the world and a revamped BSE GBR risk assessment brought forth again, even stronger this time to consider all TSE in a given country. but to continue to trade TSE globally with this BSE MRR policy, will continue to spread all strains all around the globe. ...


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