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From: TSS ()
Subject: JAPAN & Taiwan 2nd USA BSE case may mean import delay
Date: June 26, 2005 at 7:12 pm PST

2nd BSE case may mean import delay

By AKIHIKO HONDA, The Asahi Shimbun

With confirmation by the U.S. government of a second case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, Japan's Food Safety Commission could delay resumption of imports of American beef.

The commission has been evaluating conditions for resuming U.S. beef imports-and it had indicated this could happen as early as this fall.

But with a second U.S. case of mad cow disease confirmed Friday, the commission will now likely seek more data to judge the extent of the BSE risk.

Because the infected cow was more than 8 years old, officials at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare as well as the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries were not overly concerned.

Japan and the United States agreed in October to do away with inspections for beef imported to Japan from cattle that are younger than 20 months old.

In negotiations leading up to that agreement, the two sides agreed the basic framework for restarting beef imports would not be affected if isolated cases of BSE were reported.

The Food Safety Commission is discussing whether beef from U.S. cattle under 20 months old would be considered as safe as the domestic product, even if no inspections are conducted on the animals.

American officials had argued the United States was free of BSE because the first confirmed case was of a Canadian-born cow. They also said no other cases had been confirmed since testing for BSE began in June 2004.

However, the second confirmed BSE case tosses out those arguments. The Food Safety Commission is expected to spend more time assessing the extent to which BSE has spread in the United States.

Questions are likely to focus on the reliability of the U.S. inspection system because the second case was confirmed after an initial BSE test on the same cow had proved negative.

Because the United States lacks an animal identification system like the ones used in Japan and Canada, it will be difficult to determine how the animal became infected and if other cattle raised on the same or nearby ranches may also be infected.

Two experts had different takes on the effects of the second case of BSE in the United States.

Kiyotoshi Kaneko, a professor at Tokyo Medical University and a member of the specialists committee under the Food Safety Commission, said discussions within the commission would not likely change much because the likelihood of a second infection had not been unexpected.

"However, if it is confirmed that the infected cow was born in the United States, we will ask for detailed information about the animal to determine the extent of infection in the United States," Kaneko said. "There will also have to be an increase in the number of details checked to confirm the safety of the beef."

Toshiko Kanda, secretary-general of the National Liaison Committee of Consumers' Organizations, said the United States would have to take necessary measures to eliminate BSE.

"Unless the extent of infection in the United States is determined, it will not be possible to decide how safe the beef is," Kanda said. "I hope Japan asks the U.S. government for more information about the animal."(IHT/Asahi: June 27,2005)

DOH director says beef ban is only procedural

Government will consider changing stance after Washington provides more detailed information
2005-06-27 / Taiwan News, Staff Reporter / By Lu Chia-ying

The government's reinstatement of a ban on American beef was simply a matter of procedure and not related to the safety of the imported meat for consumers, a health official claimed yesterday.

The Department of Health reimposed the ban as promised when a new case of made cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), was confirmed on Saturday, said Chen Lu-hung (│»│░ž╗), director of the Health Department's Bureau of Food Safety.

"The ban was reinstated without considering the issue of food safety," he said.

The DOH will consider lifting the ban again only after the U.S. government presents detailed information about the newly confirmed case and documents the safety of the beef it exports.

On Friday, an internationally recognized laboratory in Weybridge, England, confirmed the disease was found in an animal apparently born in the United States after U.S. tests on tissue samples produced conflicting results.

Soon after the results were announced, the Executive Yuan reimposed the ban that had been lifted 70 days earlier. Local health officials at the time guaranteed the imported meat's safety.

On Saturday, Chen and Premier Frank Hsieh (┴┬¬°ž╩) both reiterated that eating American beef imported into Taiwan was safe, because "the imported meat all came from heads of cattle under the age of 30 months," which are at much lower risk of spreading the brain-wasting disease.

Chen disclosed that the animal confirmed of having the disease was eight years old and could not have entered Taiwan's food chain.

The officials also suggested that the imported meat posed little risk because it was cleared of high-risk cow parts, including the brains and spinal cords.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns on Friday said the test actually validated the department's screening procedures, stressing that "this animal was blocked from entering the food supply because of the firewalls we have in place."

Johanns went on that "Americans have every reason to continue to be confident in the safety of our beef."

Chen noted, however, that U.S. authorities have yet to provide details on the affected animal, such as what ranch it came from.

Despite the ban, the DOH did not order wholesalers, supermarkets and restaurants to stop supplying U.S. beef after its announcement on Saturday.

The ban only applied to meat that was to be packed and shipped from production sites in the United States on Saturday or thereafter.

The DOH permitted other items that were already being shipped or on local market shelves to be sold to local consumers, who seemed less than impressed by the ban yesterday.

A number of shoppers rushed to supermarkets and wholesalers to buy up U.S. beef before it disappeared.

"We really like it. So we buy quite a bit," a purchaser of more than 10 kilograms of U.S. beef told a TVBS reporter outside a wholesale outlet in Taipei yesterday morning.

Many others bought American beef because of its reduced price.

In April and May, Taiwanese consumers consumed over 200 shipments and up to NT$2 billion of beef imported from the United States after the DOH removed the ban, cable Era News reported. According to the report, another 100 shipments of American beef were on their way to Taiwan when the ban was announced and will be allowed in.

The Consumers' Foundation expressed dismay over what it felt was the government's lackluster response to the situation, suggesting health authorities were hypocrites.

Foundation president Jason Lee (ž§╗˝┐Č) wondered why American beef could still be sold when earlier this month the government demanded a total recall of rice dumplings made by a local company after suspecting the dumplings contained substandard pork.

Charging that the government was indifferent to the health of local residents, the foundation appealed to the public to boycott U.S. beef.

Also upset by the DOH's handling of the case, opposition People First Party lawmakers threatened to block the health agency's budget next year.

PFP Legislators Tsai Sheng-chia and Lin Teh-fu believed that the government lifted the ban in mid-April because of political pressure imposed by the U.S. government, despite the objections of Taiwan's Council of Agriculture.

DOH officials should take full responsibility now that the second BSE case is confirmed, the two lawmakers contended, threatening that "if Taiwanese consumers were to come down with the disease after eating imported U.S. beef, they should be entitled to national compensation because this is caused by bad government policies."


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