U.S., Japan affirm ag trade ties, beef problems linger
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack met on Friday with newly appointed Japanese Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Hirotaka Akamatsu.
While in Washington, the agriculture officials discussed necessary steps toward a successful conclusion of the Doha Development Agenda and issues affecting bilateral trade in agricultural products.
On the issue of beef, Vilsack emphasized the importance of basing policy on World Organization for Animal Health standards. The USDA said in a statement that Akamatsu expressed his commitment to have food safety regulations based on scientific knowledge.
However, the Associated Press reported on Sunday that Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries quarantine inspectors found bovine spinal columns in a box of a shipment containing 732 boxes from Tyson Fresh Meats in late September. The Japanese government has suspended shipments from the Tyson’s plant in Lexington, Neb., and asked the USDA to investigate the incident.
Tyson told AP that it has seven other plants still approved to ship meat to Japan, and is also investigating the incident. There are 46 U.S. meatpacking plants approved to ship beef products to Japan.
In December 2003, Japan, along with many other countries, banned U.S. beef imports after USDA confirmed that a Washington state cow had bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or “mad cow” disease. The United States has since restored most of its overseas beef trade.