Category Archives: BSE

BSE In Brazil

Open letter: Our demands regarding mad cow disease in Brazil

To: Agriculture Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi
From: Food Safety Citizens’ Watch
January 9, 2013

Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) announced on December 8, 2012 on its homepage that beef from Brazil was infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and that import of beef products from Brazil were banned from that same day. The following are problems regarding the slow response which we would like MAFF’s Risk Management Agency to reply to before January 21, 2013.

1) Why was the news about the Brazilian cow that died from BSE in December 2010 (at age 13 years) not announced until December 8, 2012?

2) Between 2010 and 2012, Brazilian beef products were imported for two years. 935 tons of heat-processed products were imported in 2010, and 1435 tons in 2011, an increase from 17% to 21% of the total imports. Please clarify how the beef products were distributed and consumed around Japan.

3) Please respond to the public regarding your ideas about taking responsibility for the risks associated with BSE and vCJD.

4) The import ban for beef products from Brazil will be kept in place until March, 2013 but until the results are presented and the consultation of the Food Safety Commission has reduced the risk, the import ban should be maintained. We also note that OIE still puts Brazil in the category of “negligible risk countries” and wonder why OIE is reluctant to change Brazil’s status. In addition, we strongly urge Japan to require all imported beef products to be fully investigated as soon as possible.

By: Kamiyama Michiko, FSCW

BSE: Keep Strict Rules To Eradicate Mad Cow Disease

Withdraw Plans to Reexamine Japan’s Strict Measures against Mad Cow Disease

December 9, 2011

Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) decided on December 9, 2011 to consider reexamining the legal measures against Mad Cow Disease and to ask the BSE committee of the Food Safety Commission to deal with the issue by the end of the year. 

We regard the easing of the present BSE inspection standards to have only one purpose, namely to make it possible to resume beef imports from the United States. 

Food Safety Citizens’ Watch and Consumers Union of Japan have sent the following letter of protest on December 9, 2011, demanding that the Japanese government should withdraw its reexamination plans and instead continue to protect consumers against BSE. 

Protest Letter: Withdraw Plans to Reexamine Japan’s Strict BSE Measures! 

On October 31, 2011, Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) raised the issue of reexamining the countermeasures against BSE, and submitted this request to the Food Safety Commission on December 9, 2011. 

We regard this as a politically motivated decision that only serves to accept expanded imports of beef products from the United States. We find this to be premature and strongly urge the Japanese government to withdraw its reexamination process, for the following reasons: 

1) Japan introduced countermeasures against BSE in 2001, implementing a strict system to safeguard against this terrible disease. 

Japan’s domestic system includes the testing of all cattle and a traceability system that identifies each cow, as well as the removal of Specified Risk Material (SRM) after slaughter, in addition to feed regulation. This is a system that serves as a global model for countermeasures against BSE and its importance has not been diminished. 

However, during the time of the reelection campaign of president George W. Bush in 2005, Japan agreed to change its strict rules so that beef products from cattle aged 20 months or younger could be imported from the US based on a simplified BSE countermeasure system. This concession followed intense US pressure on Japan’s government. 

Even so, careful testing of each and every cow has continued domestically here in Japan in order to protect consumers. 

2) As part of the proposed new countermeasures against BSE, the age limit will be raised to 30 months, and it will thus become unnecessary to test any cows that are younger than 30 months. However, there is no scientific basis for changing the age limit for BSE inspection from 20 months to 30 months. 

In fact, we regard this as a purely political decision as Japan attempts to join the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations. It is simply a concession to US domestic standards that has set the age limit arbitrarily at 30 months for its own cattle testing program. It would mean that 90% of US beef products, rather than 20% today, will become eligible for export to Japan. 

Japan made this concession to remove what trade negotiators call a “non-tariff barrier” to US president Obama as he tries to get reelected for a second term, and needs the support of and contribution for his electoral campaign from the powerful US beef industry. This also helped Japan get the US to accept that it would be allowed to participate in the TPP negotiations. 

3) While BSE infection rates have decreased around the world, there is no evidence that the US system to combat the disease has had any such effect.  

Moreover, questions have still not been answered regarding the spreading of the disease, the cause of development of symptoms of BSE, and the issue of prions inside the bodies of cows. 

In order to completely eradicate BSE from the world, it is indispensable that research based on Japan’s system that tests all cows should be implemented in all countries, and that data collection should be further expanded. 

Since there have been 15 confirmed cases of US beef product export program violations with regards to Japan, it is also necessary to strictly verify the US compliance with countermeasures against BSE. 

4) We are concerned that if non-tariff barriers are further deliberated in the TPP negotiation process, we will end up with a similar situation that South Korea is now facing as part of its free trade agreement with the US. This system explicitly makes it impossible for a country to stop imports of beef products from a country even if BSE should occur in the exporting country (This is also known as the “ratchet effect” and implies that any new liberalization measures would be “locked in” so they cannot be rescinded or nullified over time, for example by improved consumer protection legislation). Such deregulation is unacceptable to consumers in Japan.

Additionally, we are strongly opposed to having the rules and standards of OIE (Office International des Epizooties) as mandatory provisions that override Japan’s food safety measures that are based on the precautionary principle. We regard this as a serious and unacceptable affront to Japan’s sovereignty. 

Food Safety Citizen’s Watch

Kamiyama Michiko

Consumers Union of Japan

Amagasa Keisuke, Koga Mako, Mashimo Toshi & Yamaura Yasuaki

OIE Rating: The BSE Risk In The US Remains High

CUJ OIE Comments (PDF)

On May 20, 2007, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) classified the United States as a “Controlled Risk” country, together with Canada, Switzerland, Taiwan, Chile and Brazil. This rating was decided at the OIE general meeting based on each country’s BSE status. As a result of this OIE rating, exports of US beef will become unrestricted after Specified Risk Material (SRM) is removed, even for beef from older US cattle.

We are concerned that this will lead to a US demand for the easing of the beef export agreement with Japan’s government.

Consumers Union of Japan is opposed to the latest result from the OIE scientific commission. The reason is that the US countermeasures for BSE remain insufficient.

BSE: Statement of Opposition

20 February, 2007

To Mr. Matsuoka Toshikatsu, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
To Mr. Yanagisawa Hakuo, Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare

Statement of opposition to the violations against the Japan-U.S. agreement on the import of American beef (age limit rules) and a demand to stop all imports

On February 16, 2007 Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare announced that two boxes of beef had been found at the Yokohama port, without the required hygiene certificates issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The beef in question had been shipped from the Lexington meat processing plant of Tyson Fresh Meat Inc., in clear violation of the conditions of the Japan-U.S. beef import program. According to this agreement only beef from cows age 20 months or younger may be shipped to Japan.

When Japan re-opened its markets in December 2005, the governments of Japan and the U.S. had agreed that beef should be from cows age 20 months or less, and stipulated that specified risk materials (SRMs) should be removed from the beef shipments. These are the conditions that the governments have egreed on. Consequently, as soon as imports had resumed, SRMs were found in a shipment, and U.S. beef was banned again. Consumers took that action for granted.

We opposed the decision to once more re-open Japan’s market to imports of beef from the U.S. but in spite of this, Japan’s market was re-opened again in July, 2006. Then in November, 2006 there was the case of beef shipments lacking the proper certificates issued by the USDA, and consumers increasingly felt a deep insecurity regarding the safety of beef. Now we learn of yet another case where meat is imported without the required hygiene certificates.

This time, we strongly protest against the clear violation of the import agreement, and demand that Japan should stop the import of all U.S. beef for a second time, in the same way as after the re-opening in 2005, when the same import violation was discovered.

Tyson explained that it was just a careless mistake, and it was announced that their other meat factories will continue exporting to Japan. Japan’s government is currently maintaining an ambiguous attitude of only stopping imports from that one particular meat factory, thus giving preference to the will of the U.S. export industry, leaving consumers increasingly suspicious that they are being betrayed. Meat imports should be stopped until Japan’s government has verified that the Japan-U.S. agreement is strictly adhered to.

Lastly, we note that it took 10 days or more until the Japan’s government announced this most recent incident. We can only conclude that Japan is caring more about the views of the U.S. government, while turning its back to Japanese consumers. Japan’s government must understand that Japanese consumers are becoming deeply suspicious of beef. We demand that strict measures are taken as a response to this situation.

Contact: Consumers Union of Japan

Kamiyama Michiko, Representative
Food Safety Citizens’ Watch

Tomiyama Yoko, Chairperson
Consumers Union of Japan