Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is monitoring imported food products, including dairy, to determine compliance with new Food Sanitation Law provisions on chemical residues. Over the next year, Japan will randomly collect nearly 12,000 food samples for antibiotics, including a minimum of 446 shipments of dairy products.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recognizes that six beta lactams are widely used in treating disease in lactating dairy cattle and are the most likely to cause a residue in milk if misused. These are penicillin, ceftiofur, cloxacillin, cephapirin, amoxicillin, and ampicillin.
In addition, MHLW will take almost 13,000 food samples for additives, including at least 445 shipments of dairy products, and more than 15,000 food samples for constituents such as bacteria and microorganisms, including 596 consignments of dairy products.
Japan's updated Food Sanitation Law includes the so-called "positive list" - maximum residue limits for 799 agricultural chemicals, feed additives and veterinary drugs.
The U.S. Dairy Export Council, representing the overseas trade interests of the U.S. dairy industry, has analyzed the new Japanese law in context with U.S. regulation, residue monitoring and compliance. The organization provided a report to Japanese buyers and other stakeholders documenting the safety of U.S. dairy products, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration National Drug Residue Milk Monitoring Program showing that 99.99% milk samples collected in 2004 tested negative for drug residues.
The consequences of breaching the new law can be severe. When a violation is identified during sampling, MHLW will increase testing to 50% of the shipments from either the country of origin, the processor or the shipper of the product; Japan has the latitude to decide which of the three based on the results of the test. After a second violation, MHLW will test every shipment and hold consignments in port until test results confirm compliance. This increased surveillance will continue for a year after no further violations are found.
In addition, the MHLW will publish the names and addresses of importers who have violated the new law, as well as the names of the violating imported foods. The list is published on the MHLW website, which is updated every one to two weeks.
"These new enforcement measures put U.S. dairy exporters on notice to make sure every shipment of cheese, whey, lactose and other dairy products to Japan meets food-safety regulations," says Diane Lewis, USDEC's vice president of market access and regulatory affairs. "Japanese inspectors will cast as wide a net as necessary to ensure compliance; if they can't be confident in isolating a "hot" product to a specific supplier, they'll expand testing to include all suppliers from the source country. In other words, one bad apple has the potential to spoil the whole bunch."