- TOKYO -- Japanese food safety
regulators were questioning the safety of U.S. beef after a Ministry of
Agriculture study showed nearly half of the 20 mad cow cases found in Japan
would have passed unnoticed if tested under U.S. methods, officials said
- Scientists on a Food Safety Commission panel have called
for more details on a second case of confirmed mad cow disease in the United
States, a move that could delay a decision to resume imports of U.S. beef,
expected in late August, officials said.
- The ministry report, submitted to the panel on Thursday,
showed that nine of the 20 cows found to have mad cow in Japan would have
been sent to market because they looked healthy according to U.S. testing
- The result prompted concern among the panel, ministry
spokesman Hiroyuki Kamakawa said. He said they want to assess the extent
of mad-cow infections in the United States to calculate the risk of excluding
healthy-looking cows from testing. Japan tests all cows before slaughter
while U.S. regulators test only those that display signs of the disease.
- Last month, Washington confirmed that a 12-year-old cow
born in Texas had tested positive for mad-cow disease. It was the country's
second case of the brain-wasting disease known officially as bovine spongiform
encephalopathy (BSE) found in cattle, but the first in a U.S.-born cow.
The first case was traced to a dairy cow imported from Canada.
- The Japanese panel members are also concerned because
the cow initially tested negative before the infection was confirmed by
a British laboratory.
- The panel's assessment on the safety of resuming U.S.
beef imports depends on how soon Tokyo can obtain the requested information
from Washington, a Food Safety Commission official said on condition of
anonymity, hinting at a possible delay in the panel's decision.
- Concerned about further pressure from Washington, Agriculture
Minister Yoshinobu Shimamura urged the Japanese food safety experts to
"reach a good decision promptly."
- Japan was the United States' largest overseas market
for beef before Tokyo banned all American beef after the first case of
mad cow disease surfaced in the United States in December 2003.
- Washington has been pressing Tokyo to lift its 18-month
ban, and some U.S. officials have threatened sanctions unless the ban ends.
- Last fall, Tokyo promised that it would resume limited
imports of cows younger than 21 months considered less at risk of the disease,
but those plans were delayed by a dispute on testing standards used to
determine the age of cattle.
- Eating beef infected with BSE is thought to cause variant
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a fatal brain disorder that has killed more
than 150 people, mostly in Britain in the 1990s.
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