Japan has suspended beef shipments from a US meat-packing plant after finding cattle parts banned under an agreement to prevent the spread of mad cow disease, the agriculture ministry said yesterday.
Japanese quarantine inspectors found bovine spinal columns in one of 732 boxes sent by Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc, which arrived in Japan last month, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said in a statement. The box contained 16kg of chilled short loin with spinal bones.
The suspension only affects Tyson’s factory in Nebraska, one of 46 meat-packing plants approved to export beef to Japan.
The Japanese ministry also asked the US Department of Agriculture to investigate how the box containing the banned parts ended up in Japan.
Japan banned all US beef imports in 2003 after the first case of mad cow disease was discovered in the US. Japan resumed buying American beef in 2006 after a bilateral trade agreement setting new safety standards.
Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is a degenerative nerve disease in cattle. In humans, eating meat products contaminated with the illness is linked to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare and fatal malady.
Under the bilateral trade agreement, US exporters must remove spinal columns, brain tissue and other parts considered linked to the mad cow disease. US beef shipments to Japan must also come only from cattle age 20 months or younger, which are believed to pose less of a risk.
Washington has repeatedly criticized Japan for its tough import restrictions, which authorities say have no scientific basis.
US officials have urged Japan to allow imports of beef from cattle aged up to 30 months, a widely used safety standard elsewhere.
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