Japan Halts U.S. Beef Shipments, Resumption Date Unknown

Brooklyn veal shipment includes banned bones to Japan. Compiled by staff

Published on: Jan 22, 2006

A Brooklyn, New York veal shipment has again shut out U.S. beef business in Japan. Friday's news that the ban would be renewed raised questions about the United States' ability to abide by the agreement that has only been back in place for just over a month.

The veal shipment from Atlantic Veal & Lamb company contained banned materials, spinal cord, outlined in the U.S. and Japan agreement on beef trade resumption. A statement from the company said there was a misinterpretation of the export requirements and was an "honest mistake involving a very small amount of product that has led to this degree of concern," a statement from the company says.

Atlantic Veal & Lamb President Philip Peerless estimated the shipment in question contained no meat over 4.5 months of age. There has never been a confirmed case of BSE in an animal less than 20 months of age.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick was already scheduled to be in Japan last week, in hopes of expanding the age limit to those under 30 months of now. Instead he's tasked with regaining confidence in the United States' ability to abide by the rules of engagement. Saturday Zoellick met with Japanese Agriculture Minister Shoichi Nakagawa.

Monday Zoellick plans to meet with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso. In a speech Saturday Aso said it "was likely to take time before imports could once more be resumed and that the mistake inevitably raised questions about management on the U.S. side," the Wall Street Journal reports.

Aso told Kyodo news service Japan won't begin to talk about import resumption until the management scheme is made certain.

Friday, Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns outlined 10 new steps USDA will take immediately to prevent such a mistake in the future:

1. USDA will conduct an investigation and provide a written report to the government of Japan.

2. Atlantic Veal & Lamb will be delisted from USDA's Bovine Export Verification program for export beef to Japan.

3. USDA will require the signatures of two FSIS meat inspectors to certify beef for export to Japan.

4. USDA will begin unannounced inspections at BEV plants.

5. FSIS held a conference call Friday with all district managers to review export requirements on all BEV requirements.

6. Inspectors in all BEV plants will be required to review procedures to make sure all requirements are met.

7. No additional plants will be listed in BEV until new procedures are in place.

8. A team of inspectors will go to Japan.

9. FSIS will conduct an investigation of Atlantic Veal & Lamb.

10. FSIS meat inspectors will receive additional training that leads to a certificate on BEV requirements and procedures.

Reports indicate South Korea and Singapore will continue with trade resumption as planned, despite Japan's decision to halt trade.