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From: TSS ()
Subject: U.S. Unsure On Cattle Age Violation On Beef Shipment To Japan
Date: February 21, 2007 at 10:02 am PST

2/21/2007 11:43:00 AM

US Unsure On Cattle Age Violation On Beef Shipment To Japan

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--A shipment of U.S. beef that arrived in Japan this month may have violated the country's rules that all product come from cattle under 21 months old, but U.S. government officials say they can't know for certain.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said Wednesday he has been told some of the beef likely violated Japan's cattle age restriction, but Johanns also stressed the information he is getting is very preliminary and subject to change.

Terri Teuber, a USDA spokeswoman, said USDA verified that the "additional boxes in the shipment" contained beef from cattle under 30 months of age. As to whether the beef met Japan's requirement of coming from cattle under 21 months of age, she said USDA just doesn't know.

Japan, out of concern that older cattle are more likely to be infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad-cow disease, requires imported U.S. beef be derived from cattle under 21 months old.

Japan announced last week it was shutting down imports from Tyson Food Inc.'s (TSN) plant in Lexington, Neb., because part of a beef shipment couldn't be proven to have come from cattle under 21 months old.

Gary Mickelson, a Tyson spokesman, said it was the "inadvertent" inclusion of two boxes containing 95 pounds of boneless short ribs in a shipment that "were not eligible for export to Japan."

Those two boxes, he said, "were from cattle under the age of 30 months but did not meet Japan's requirement for product from beef carcasses under 21 months of age."

U.S. officials are talking to their Japanese counterparts in an effort to keep ramifications of the trade mishap to a minimum.

USDA's Johanns said Wednesday: "We are talking to Japan and we are working with Tyson. We want to make sure that, number one, that it doesn't happen again and, number two, that Japan handles this in a reasonable way. So far so good."

A violation of Japan's beef import regulations has prompted Japan to cut off trade with the U.S. previously. It was in January 2006 - just a month after Japan began allowing in U.S. beef again after a three-year ban - that the country discovered prohibited vertebral column in a single U.S. shipment of veal. Japan stopped importing U.S. beef for about six months.

Japan originally banned U.S. beef in December 2003, after the U.S. found its first BSE case. Before that discovery, Japan was the largest foreign market for U.S. beef. The U.S. exported $1.4 billion worth of beef to Japan in 2003.

Now, though, a U.S. industry representative said, U.S. exports are just one-tenth of what they used to be because of the restrictions Japan places on U.S. beef.

Source: Bill Tomson; Dow Jones Newswires; 202-646-0088;


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