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