The Kyodo News Service reported over the weekend that USDA responded to Japanese questions about an earlier report over a U.S. beef shipment that contained banned beef materials. The shipment, from an east coast veal processor, contained vertebral material and offal, both of which are prohibited in the limited trade agreement that allowed U.S. beef back into Japan.
USDA responded to Japan's concerns with a 470-plus page report and Japan came back with questions. As U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns pointed out in a recent press conference, the dialog remains open between the two countries. USDA responded to Japan's questions by e-mail according to the wire report.
According to the report, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries declined to disclose the contents of the answers, but officials are focusing on whether the United States has come out with preventive measures convincing enough for Japanese consumers.
USDA has implemented a wide ranging series of changes to the beef shipment process, including enhanced inspections by officials to make sure Japan gets only what it wants in beef from the United States. Washington is expected to send experts to Tokyo soon to hold meetings on the issue with the aim of getting the Japanese market reopened to beef trade.
However, Asian officials are concerned about U.S. packing facility compliance after an incident involving a Colorado beef plant and bone material in a shipment of beef to Hong Kong. The plant has been banned from shipping more beef to Hong Kong, but the incident raises concerns as the Japan-U.S. discussions continue.