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USDA Proposal to Permit Japanese Beef Imports Is Intellectually Inconsistent, AMI Says

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed rule to permit imports of Japanese boneless beef based on the science is an admirable effort to restore trade with Japan, but stands in stark contrast to Japan’s reluctance to reopen its market to American beef, according to comments filed yesterday by the American Meat Institute (AMI). The proposed rule also is intellectually inconsistent with the Department’s prohibition on certain cattle imports and beef from Canada.

In the comments, filed in response to Docket No. 05-004-1; Importation of Whole Cuts of Boneless Beef from Japan, AMI President J. Patrick Boyle said that, according to Office of International Epizootics (OIE) parameters, Japan can be considered a controlled risk region, and should be eligible to export beef consistent with the conditions appropriate for such regions.

“To that end, AMI supports the application of the guidelines in this proposal,” Boyle said. “However, it is both ironic and exceptionally disappointing to the beef industry that APHIS is expeditiously moving forward to reopen the American market to these products from Japan while the Japanese government refuses to apply the OIE guidelines with respect to American beef products.”

Boyle also detailed the intellectual inconsistency of permitting Japanese beef into the U.S. while continuing to preclude the import of cattle 30 months of age and older (OTM cattle) and the beef products derived from those animals from other minimal risk regions such as Canada.

"The very OIE guidelines that APHIS cites as justification for the proposal, which would allow the import of certain beef products from Japan from cattle of any age, also would allow the import of OTM cattle and the beef from those cattle from any minimal risk region. Yet, APHIS refuses to allow those cattle or the beef from them to enter the U.S.,” Boyle said. In the comments, he noted that AMI agrees that boneless beef from Japan poses negligible risk to U.S. consumers. He also said that that Canada and the U.S. have virtually identical risk profiles regarding BSE and arguably can be considered to be negligible risk countries under the OIE guidelines.

According to the comments, both Canada and the U.S. have had effective feed ban rules in effect for eight years, both countries have conducted extensive BSE surveillance programs, and both countries have extensive specified risk material removal regulatory requirements. Japan, by contrast, did not implement an effective feed ban until 2001 after the diagnosis of its first case of BSE. “Indeed, a compelling argument can be made that Canada and the U.S. are negligible risk regions based on the above, which would support allowing Canadian OTM cattle and beef into the U.S.,” Boyle said. “There is no justified reason to permit beef from Japan to enter the U.S. and not provide the same treatment for Canadian cattle and beef. “

Boyle also argued that the scientific evidence demonstrably proves that food safety is not dependent on the age of the animal, but whether SRMs that may contain the infectious agent have been removed and eliminated from the human food supply. The governments of Japan, the U.S., and Canada require the hygienic removal of all known potentially infectious material (SRMs) from the food supply, assuring the safety of the beef supply.

Prohibiting the import of older Canadian cattle, while permitting the import of Japanese beef derived from the same age animals damages the integrity of American inspection system, according to Boyle. “Such a policy calls into question USDA's ability to enforce its regulations because it incorrectly suggests that SRM removal can be effectively accomplished in a foreign country to render beef safe, but that U.S. slaughterers may not be capable of effectively performing the same procedures,” he said.

“Although AMI supports the proposal to allow the importation of Japanese beef, consistent treatment should also be afforded Canada and other minimal risk regions. AMI urges the agency to act expeditiously to reestablish fully trade for all cattle, beef, and beef products produced in Canada,” Boyle said. “U.S. cattle slaughterers and beef processors have suffered substantial economic damage over the past 20 months. Fully restoring cattle and beef trade in North America is a critical step to preventing further equity losses in the industry, enhancing our competitiveness in an increasingly global market, and protecting jobs in the U.S.”

To read the comments, go to: http://www.meatinstitute.org/Sept05ImportJapanBeefComments.pdf

For more information contact:
David Ray
Vice President, Public Affairs
Janet Riley
Sr. Vice President, Public Affairs

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