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From: TSS ()
Subject: Is US beef as safe as Japanese
Date: May 27, 2005 at 1:53 pm PST

##################### Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy #####################


Is US beef as safe as Japanese

05/27/2005

The Asahi Shimbun

Japan

How safe is U.S. beef? But talks on this issue have yet to start in earnest.

We urge the commission to thoroughly look into the matter and answer the questions that have been raised. At the same time, it should reach a conclusion on whether to resume U.S. beef imports as soon as possible.

Is U.S. beef safe? More pertinently, is it as safe as Japanese beef? These questions were posed by the ministries of health and agriculture to the Cabinet Office's Food Safety Commission.

The commission's debate on bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) has focused on domestic measures, such as re-examining the policy of blanket testing of cattle.

Now, for the first time, it is about to debate the safety of American beef ahead of announcing a decision on whether Japan should resume U.S. beef imports.

The discussion has yet to start in earnest. We urge the commission to reach a conclusion that most people can accept, based on objective data.

The ministries say the two main requirements for a resumption of imports are that cattle slaughtered for human consumption must be no older than 20 months old and dangerous body parts, such as brains and spinal cords, should be completely removed.

In Japan, all cattle are tested for BSE before they are put on the market. But earlier this month, the commission agreed to lift the requirement for cattle that are 20 months old or younger.

The two ministries contend that so long as the same conditions are applied to U.S. beef, imports of untested U.S. beef pose no threat.

But the matter is not that simple because it is difficult for the U.S. beef industry to meet the requirements proposed by Japan.

The first question is how to determine the age of cattle. In the United States, cattle are raised in herds. Therefore, unlike in Japan, in many cases records of birth are not kept for individual animals. In February, the two ministries acceded to U.S. demands under which the age of cattle will be determined by the toughness of meat and other factors.

Quite a few commission members have questioned the accuracy of using such a method.

As for the removal of dangerous body parts, a labor union of U.S. food inspectors pointed out that control is lax. While the U.S. Department of Agriculture denies this, we find the situation worrisome.

To begin with, Japan re-examined its blanket testing policy because the spread of infection began to subside as a result of advanced safety measures. The use of meat and bone meal, which causes BSE, to feed cattle and other livestock is now banned.

But in the United States, it can be used to feed pigs and chickens. The U.S. Government Accountability Office has also said there is a danger of meat and bone meal getting mixed in with cattle feed.

Moreover, less than 1 percent of all cattle slaughtered in the United States are tested for BSE. With such a tiny ratio, there is no way to fully grasp the spread of actual contamination.

We urge the commission to thoroughly look into the matter and answer the questions that have been raised. At the same time, it should reach a conclusion on whether to resume U.S. beef imports as soon as possible. Otherwise, the U.S. government might begin to suspect that Japan is deliberately using delay tactics.

When the commission sought input from the public about re-examining the policy of blanket testing, 70 percent were opposed. Opponents said it was too early to change course and that more scientific evidence is needed. This demonstrates that consumers are still very concerned about BSE measures.

The Food Safety Commission should show its mettle so that consumers can depend on it.

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 26(IHT/Asahi: May 27,2005)

asahi.com

TSS

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