U.S. investigation into Japanese beef export debacle spreads blame
The results of a U.S. government investigation into an ineligible shipment of veal to Japan last month put the blame on both federal agricultural officials and the meat processors.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture published the investigation results in a 475-page report released Friday. The investigation concluded that the shipment posed no risk to human health. However, USDA has taken a number of measures to assure the Japanese government that similar incidents don’t happen again.
“I believe our actions fully address the facts that led to this incident, and provide added protections on a broader scale to prevent similar problems in the future,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns in a statement Friday.
USDA officials noted that the ineligible shipment was the first to Japan since that country closed its borders to U.S. beef in December 2003 after a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or “mad cow” disease was confirmed in a Washington state cow.
The USDA’s report concluded that mistakes were made by both the plants involved in the shipment and USDA inspectors. The veal shipment included intact vertebral column and veal offal, which is prohibited under a the new agreement with Japan.
In addition, the report pointed out that the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service inspectors at the meat plants were not sufficiently aware of the Agricultural Marketing Service Export Verification program and should not have certified or approved the veal shipment to Japan.
USDA is taking several actions in response to the report’s findings. These actions include:
* Food Safety and Inspection Service inspectors who work in plants that are certified to export beef must undergo additional mandatory training to ensure they understand the U.S. export agreements.
* USDA will require plants to maintain a list of specific products that they are certified to ship to any country, instead of a blanket export certification and that list will be kept readily available for USDA inspectors to view.
* USDA inspectors in the plants will be notified of changes to a plant’s eligibility to export at three separate times in the certification process.
* Final export certification cannot be completed until in-plant inspectors have undergone additional training to ensure coordination between the Agricultural Marketing Service and Food Safety and Inspection Service.
Once exports resume to Japan, USDA will require a second signature on every beef export, unless a trading partner indicates a second signature is not necessary for these products to that country.