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From: TSS ()
Subject: Japan suspects mad cow disease in young steer; may affect cattle imports
Date: April 17, 2006 at 10:49 am PST

In Reply to: Re: JAPAN AWAITS BSE TEST RESULTS ON 20-MONTH-OLD STEER posted by TSS on April 17, 2006 at 8:27 am:

Japan suspects mad cow disease in young steer; may affect cattle imports

Hiroko Tabuchi, Canadian Press
Published: Monday, April 17, 2006

TOKYO (CP) - A 20-month-old steer in northeastern Japan may have had mad cow disease, and if the case is confirmed it could affect Japan's imports of U.S. and Canadian beef, officials said Monday.

A young Holstein slaughtered for meat last week in Fukushima prefecture, some 240 kilometres northeast of Tokyo, was found to have tested positive for the brain-wasting disease, according to Tosh!taka Higashira of the Agricultural Ministry.

If confirmed, it would be one of the youngest cows to test positive for mad cow - the common name for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE - in the world. The youngest as of 2005 was a 20-month-old cow found with the disease in the United Kingdom in 1992, according to Japan's Food Safety Commission.

Vice-Agriculture Minister Mamoru Ishihara told reporters Monday the case, if confirmed, "would be of a nature that would affect import restrictions on beef from the U.S. and Canada."

Japan in December eased a two-year-old ban to allow imports of North America animals aged 20 months or younger which did not contain body parts thought at risk of BSE. The trade was again halted after a U.S. veal shipment was found to contain prohibited bones.

The United States, in contrast, requires removal of at-risk parts from animals older than 30 months, although there is a short list of tissues that must be removed from younger animals. U.S. officials have argued cows younger than that face minuscule risks of BSE.

Separately, Ishihara said the confirmation of a case of BSE in Canada over the weekend would not influence Japan's import policy.

A six-year-old dairy cow from British Columbia tested positive for BSE, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Sunday. The cow from a Fraser Valley farm was identified through the national BSE surveillance program when it began having trouble walking. It was Canada's fifth confirmed case since May 2003.

Discovery of BSE in Alberta in 2003 closed world markets to Canadian beef, costing producers billions of dollars.

Canadian beef exports to Japan is only a fraction of what it used to be - about 20 tonnes a week compared with 500 tonnes before May 2003. A spokesman for the Canada Beef Export Federation said not enough animals with documents proving the animals meet the 20-month age requirement are being brought to market.

Mad cow is a degenerative nerve disease in cattle. Eating contaminated meat products has been linked to the rare but fatal variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Japan, which tests all cattle killed for meat, has confirmed 24 cases of mad cow since 2001 - including three cases this year, according to the Agricultural Ministry. There have been three confirmed cases of the disease in the United States.

Japan's market was worth $1.4 billion US annually when its government banned American beef in response to the first U.S. case of mad cow disease in December 2003.

© The Canadian Press 2006


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