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From: TSS ()
Subject: Japan Beef Exports and Johanns Future Await Slaughterhouse Audits
Date: July 19, 2006 at 4:44 pm PST

July 19, 2006 at 13:28:39

Japan Beef Exports and Johanns Future Await Slaughterhouse Audits

by Martha Rosenberg

http://www.opednews.com

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns probably wishes he never heard the words "mad cow" or left the governor's office in Nebraska.

He probably envies his predecessor, Ann Veneman, who turned the whole thing around--it seemed--by banning downers in human food and is now safely ensconced at the UN doing good deeds.

His legacy might have been reopening beef exports to Japan--which represented 10% of US beef sales--after the discovery of domestic mad cows inspired a boycott. But noooooo-

After Japan found illegible ribs--seven stinking ribs--in a veal shipment, a year of negotiations were down the drain. And that was just the beginning!

A USDA audit in March designed to win back Japan's trust did just the opposite.
Nine meatpackers and slaughterhouses were in noncompliance and the gigantic Swift & Co. plant in Greeley, Nebraska was banned from shipping beef to Japan altogether.

Worse, 29 downers were found to have gotten in the human food supply, some without being tested for mad cow, because inspectors "did not believe that they had the authority" to go into pens.

(Johanns said they were fine when they got to the slaughterhouse but for one reason or another became unable to walk, which also describes his tenure in office.)

Then instead of thanking him for his efforts to reopen cattle markets, US ranchers and packers attacked him.

R-CALF USA, a rancher advocacy group, sued the government for trying to reopen the Canadian border to beef imports after the discovery of mad cows made the US close it. (Like Japan, we don't want to import mad cow beef either.) They didn't want the imports crowding their market.

And Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, a packer in Arkansas City, Kansas sued for the right to test its own animals instead of relying on government labs, to please its biggest customer. You guessed it--Japan!

And when Japan finally agreed last month, after more negotiations, to reconsider imports if it can inspect our slaughterhouses-- thousands of slaughterhouses refused! Saying in effect, we're not that broke.

"There are a lot of guys who don't want to go through the hassle of these inspections," explained Deven Scott, executive vice president of the North American Meat Processors Association. Especially because there will be follow-up surprise inspections, he might have added.

And there have been other hiccoughs along the way.

Like Johanns' misdiagnosis of the second US mad cow, born in Texas, for seven months which allowed its untested herdmates and offspring to end up on US dinner plates.

And the convocation of industry representatives--including McDonald's vice president Dick Crawford--who admonished the FDA earlier this year that they needed better guidelines for meat safety. Whose side are they on?

Of course there's been some good news too.

Despite the fact that Canada continues to discover mad cows and export to us and that the US is finding a few of our own, no one cares.

The public has bought the line that Creutzfeldt Jacob disease (CJD)--which continues to surface in US hospitals--isn't caused by meat but occurs spontaneously.

They've bought it so well, the government is now using the same line for cattle. Mad cow isn't caused by ranchers violating feed bans and serving dead cattle to live ones: it just happens.

But the bad news won't quit either. In July, Japan found more prohibited beef--this time in a box that was supposed to contain US turkey and ham--and a high-ranking Japanese agriculture ministry official said it underscored continuing sloppiness among U.S. beef processors.

Too bad wrong shipments don't occur spontaneously.

Martha Rosenberg is staff cartoonist for the Evanston Roundtable.

http://www.opednews.com/articles/genera_martha_r_060719_japan_beef_exports_a.htm

TSS




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