Japan Policy Panel to Relax Threshold for U.S. Beef from Cattle Under 30 Months

November 8, 2012 12:59 AM
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Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare's (MHLW) policy commission Nov. 6 decided to relax the age threshold to allow beef imports from cattle under 30 months instead of the current limit of less than 20 months for beef from the United States, Canada, France, and the Netherlands, a MHLW official confirmed to Bloomberg BNA.

Implementation ahead. With the scientific hurdles now cleared, the ministry is gearing up to implement the less-than-30-month threshold by year's end, enabling US exporters and Japanese importers to distribute U.S. beef to Japanese retailers from early 2013, an official of the ministry's Food Safety Department said Nov. 6.

The decision came Oct. 22 after the Japanese government's independent Food Safety Commission's (FSC) mad cow expert panel recommended relaxing the age threshold. “Even though [bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow] risks occur, such risks are extremely limited and the effects on humans are nonexistent,” FSC Chairman Susumu Kumagai was quoted as telling the Oct. 22 meeting by an official.

The FSC recommendation also called for conducting BSE tests on domestic cattle to those over 30 months old, instead of the current 20 months.In relaxing the threshold, the expert panel explained that the four beef-exporting countries are taking sufficient scientific precautionary measures and tests to prevent the infection of BSE to humans and other animals.

The FSC told the MHLW to continue collecting information from feed importers and other entities to ensure that feed for domestic cattle be free from BSE contamination.

The FSC recommendation followed its one-month public comment period through Oct. 10, during which as many as 414 comments were submitted, including 231 opposed to relaxing the threshold and 74 who said US safety measures were insufficient.

Even though the FSC gave approval to the MHLW to relax the threshold and other regulations, the ministry still is required to post what is expected to be the final administrative process to the public comment procedure, according to the ministry official.

Comments: One potential complicating factor in expanding U.S. beef trade to Japan even under broader trade terms is the U.S. cattle/beef supply which some say will limit the growth potential for trade in 2013.

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.






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