Japan's agriculture minister urged a senior US official
yesterday to prevent further violations of a bilateral beef pact,
after prohibited bone materials in a recent shipment of American
beef renewed fears of mad cow disease.
"The US must strictly follow the rules it agreed upon with
Japan, and ensure that such an incident never occurs again,"
Shoichi Nakagawa told reporters after meeting with US Deputy
Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick in Tokyo.
Zoellick called the shipment of prohibited bone materials an
unacceptable mistake, and expressed "sincere regret" on behalf of
the US, according to Michael Boyle, a spokesperson for the US
Embassy in Tokyo.
"The US has a commitment to Japan regarding beef exports, and
that is a commitment we take seriously," Boyle quoted Zoellick as
saying. Zoellick said the particular shipment didn't affect safety,
according to Boyle.
Japan announced late Friday it would stop US beef imports after
inspectors found spinal bone material, considered by Japan to be at
risk of containing mad cow disease, in a recent veal shipment.
The move came just weeks after Tokyo lifted its two-year ban on
American beef from cows aged 20 months or younger, which are
believed unlikely to have the disease.
The deal also excluded spines, brains, bone marrow and other
parts of cattle thought to be at particularly high risk of
containing the disease.
US industry groups have pointed out that the recent veal
shipment, though it contained spine material, was from calves less
than 6 months old, and that mad cow disease hasn't been found in
animals that young.
Still, Zoellick told Nakagawa the US had begun investigating the
matter, removed the company involved from its export program, and
that a group of senior agricultural experts would arrive Monday to
meet with Japanese officials, Boyle said.
Japan's decision to halt imports spurred supermarkets and
restaurants to ditch American beef amid renewed mad cow fears, as
officials demanded an explanation into how the prohibited material
could have passed US inspections.
Zoellick is slated to meet senior officials on Monday, including
Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, who has also said he would
lodge a complaint.
Meanwhile, Japan on Sunday faced the possibility of a renewed
mad cow risk at home, after samples from a dead cow on the northern
island of Hokkaido were sent for further tests for the disease
after earlier tests were inconclusive.
Final results were expected on Monday, according to Agricultural
Ministry official Toshiro Kawashima.
Japan has had 21 confirmed cases of mad cow disease, compared to
two cases in the US. But Tokyo tests all cattle slaughtered for
food, as well as all cattle 24 months or older that die of other
causes, Kawashima said.
The Hokkaido cow was not raised for food, Kawashima said.
Mad cow disease is the common name for bovine spongiform
encephalopathy, or BSE, a degenerative cattle nerve illness linked
to the rare and fatal human nerve disorder Creutzfeldt-Jakob
More than 150 people have died of the disease, most of them in
the UK, the site of an outbreak in the 1980s and 1990s.
(Chinadaily.com.cn via agencies, January 23, 2006)