USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspective Service proposed regulations changes Tuesday to allow the importation of whole cuts of boneless beef from Japan
. A statement from APHIS explains that the proposal will continue to protect the United States
against the introduction of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
In September 2001, APHIS prohibited the importation of ruminants and most ruminant products from Japan following the confirmation of BSE in a native-born cow in that country. Recently, Japan has requested that APHIS consider resuming the importation of beef from Japan to the United States. The proposal is also in accordance with international guidelines developed by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) for the safe trade of animal products with countries that have detected BSE.
APHIS and USDAâ€™s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) responded to the request by evaluating the risks associated with importing whole cuts of boneless beef from Japan and reviewing the extensive research on BSE. APHIS conducted a thorough risk analysis evaluating the impact on animal health, while FSIS has audited the Japanese inspection system to verify its continued equivalence and eligibility to export beef to the United States in accordance with federal inspection laws to ensure human health. Based on the risk analysis, APHIS and FSIS determined that it is not necessary to continue to prohibit the importation of whole cuts of boneless beef from Japan, provided that certain conditions are met.
The proposed rule would allow the importation of whole cuts of boneless beef that are derived from cattle, born, raised and slaughtered in Japan provided the following conditions are met:
- The beef is prepared in an establishment that is eligible to have its products imported to the United States under the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA). This includes provisions that specified-risk materials (SRMs) must be completely removed from the carcass, segregated from edible product and disposed of in an appropriate manner, and a prohibition on the use of air-injection stunning.
- The beef is derived from cattle that are not subjected to a pithing process at slaughter. Pithing involves the insertion of an elongated rod-shaped instrument into the cranial cavity of a stunned animal to further lacerate the central nervous system tissue (CNS).
- This stunning method is banned in the European Union and has never been used in the United States.
- The mitigation measures must be certified on an original certificate issued by an authorized veterinary official of the Government of Japan.
Research has demonstrated that only a limited number of tissues from cattle may harbor BSE infectivity. These are primarily the central nervous system tissues, such as brain and spinal cord. Requirements for the removal of these tissues, commonly referred to as SRMs, would prevent them from entering the human food supply and are an important safeguard to protect public health. Research has not demonstrated any risk of infectivity in bovine muscle meat, which would be the sole product eligible for importation under the proposed rule. The import conditions in the proposed rule, including the removal of SRMs, are based on scientific research and in combination are effective in allowing for the safe importation of whole cuts of boneless beef from Japan.
This proposed rule is scheduled for publication in the Aug. 18 Federal Register. APHIS documents published in the Federal Register are available on the Internet at www.aphis.usda.gov/ppd/rad/webrepor.html.
Consideration will be given to comments received on or before Sept. 19. Send an original and three copies of postal mail or commercial delivery comments to Docket No. 05-004-1, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3C71, 4700 River Road Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238. If you wish to submit a comment using the Internet, go to EDOCKET at www.epa.gov/feddocket, click on "View Open APHIS Dockets" and locate agency Docket No. 05-004-1.