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Spinal Column Found in U.S. Beef in Japan

Posted April. 25, 2008 06:27,   


A spinal column, which is a suspected source of mad cow disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), was found in U.S. beef that had been kept in storage by a Japanese fast-food chain operator.

According to the Asahi Shimbun on Thursday, Yoshinoya Holdings Co., which runs a beef bowl chain, purchased the spinal column that was imported last August by trading house Itochu Corp. from National Beef’s California plant in the United States.

The Japanese government ordered all quarantine stations in Japan to increase the frequency of random inspections on U.S. beef imports from the current one to two percent of shipments to 10 percent.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has decided to prohibit National Beef from exporting beef until the cause the bone inclusion is clearly identified.

Some of the Japanese supermarket operators, including Daiei, have already removed National Beef’s meat from their shelves. UNY, a major supermarket chain in Japan, has decided to temporarily halt selling all U.S. beef.

Some experts say that the incident may influence the ongoing negotiations between the United States and Japan on easing restrictions on U.S. beef imports.

Japan imposed a ban on U.S. beef imports in December 2003 after the first case of mad cow disease was found in the United States. The ban was lifted in 2005 on the conditions that beef shipped to Japan come only from cattle aged 20 months and younger, and specified risk materials such as spinal columns and brain tissue are removed.

Washington has demanded lifting the cattle age restriction completely, but Tokyo has suggested easing the age limit so that U.S. beef from cattle aged less than 30 months old can be exported to Japan.

When asked about the possibility of imposing a blanket ban on U.S. beef imports on Thursday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said, "We understand this is not a systematic problem and there is no need to impose an import ban."