Bush administration reaffirms to Japan that American beef is safe
The Bush administration is making the rounds in Japan this week to reassure government officials in the country that American beef exports meet Japan’s new import regulations.
Japan abruptly halted imports of U.S. beef late last week after inspectors found banned spinal bones in a shipment of veal. The meat was shipped by Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Atlantic Veal & Lamb.
U.S. Undersecretary for Farm and Agricultural Services J.B. Penn referred to the breakdown as “an isolated incident” and referred to Atlantic Veal & Lamb as inexperienced with the new regulations, according to a news report this week by the Associated Press.
Atlantic Veal & Lamb was also removed from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s list of companies eligible to ship beef products to Japan.
Japan, like many countries, closed its borders to U.S. beef imports in late December 2003 after the USDA confirmed a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or “mad cow” disease, in a Washington state cow. The brain-wasting disease can infect humans who eat infected beef.
This December, after two years of negotiations, Japan agreed to resume trade in boneless U.S. beef from cattle less than 20 months of age.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick told a press conference Monday in Tokyo that the incident was an “unacceptable mistake” and sloppiness with the new beef shipping regulations for Japan will not be tolerated.
“And while we do not believe that this is a safety issue,” Zoellick said, “the issue is our obligation under this agreement to fulfill, and I emphasized (to the Japanese government) we took it very seriously.”