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From: TSS ()
Date: February 16, 2007 at 10:37 am PST

Japan Confirms Will Suspend Beef Imports From US Plant

CattleNetwork_Today 2/16/2007 7:30:00 AM

Japan Confirms Will Suspend Beef Imports From US Plant

TOKYO (AP)--Japan will suspend beef imports from a U.S. processing plant after finding meat in a shipment that may violate a regulation imposed over mad cow concerns, the government said Friday.

The Ministries of Health and Agriculture said inspectors at the port of Yokohama found two boxes of rib meat in a shipment sent by U.S. agricultural giant Tyson Food Inc. (TSN) from its plant in Lexington, Nebraska, that were not recorded in the accompanying shipping documents.

The shipment's importer couldn't confirm that the meat met a government requirement that all beef destined for Japan be from animals age 20 months or younger, the ministries said in a statement.

Young animals are believed less likely to be infected with mad cow disease, the common name for bovine spongiform encephalopathy. U.S. officials have told Japan the boxes were erroneously included in the shipment, the statement said.

The ministries decided to suspend shipments from the processing plant until Japan can obtain further information from U.S. authorities and the exporter, it said. No banned materials have been found in the shipment, which consisted of about nine metric tons of frozen beef, it said. Calls to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo weren't immediately answered.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters Friday that the suspension was necessary to ensure food safety. "We need to investigate further," Abe said. Eating meat contaminated with mad cow disease is linked to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a rare but deadly nerve disorder.

A shipment of beef to Japan from a Tyson Foods meat plant contained two boxes of beef from cattle that exceeded Japan's age limit of 20 months or younger, Tyson said Friday.

Japan said it will suspend imports from the Nebraska plant that had shipped the beef because the cargo did not include documents providing the age of the cattle.

"We are working through USDA to resolve concerns over the inadvertent shipment of two boxes of beef from our Lexington (Nebraska) plant that were not eligible for export to Japan," Gary Mickelson, Tyson's spokesman, stated in an e-mail.

The beef was from cattle under 30 months of age, Tyson said. The boxes, which had a total of 95 pounds of boneless short ribs, did not contain any materials considered a possible risk for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly called mad cow disease, Tyson said.

Japan insists on beef from cattle 20 months of age or younger as a precaution against mad cow disease. Younger cattle are believed to have a lower risk of developing the disease.

Tyson said it will continue to ship beef to Japan from its other six U.S. beef plants.

Mad cow disease is a fatal brain disease in cattle and scientists believe humans can contract a similar fatal brain disease by eating nervous tissue and certain other parts from infected cattle.

The United States has had three cases of mad cow disease since December 2003.

© 2007


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