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Mon, Jan 23, 2006 - Page 12 News List

US sends officials to Tokyo to discuss beef

FOOD SAFETY The US delegation will brief Tokyo about a probe into how beef products banned by Japan got into a shipment of veal that was sent to the nation

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US Agriculture Department Under-secretary J.B. Penn will arrive in Tokyo today with a delegation to discuss beef test procedures to end Japan's decision to ban US meat imports last Friday.

The US farm delegation was sent to Tokyo by Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns to tell their Japanese counterparts about the status of an investigation into how backbone material, banned by Japan, got into a shipment of veal, the US embassy in Tokyo said in a faxed release.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said imports of US beef would stop after learning on Friday that banned cattle parts were found in three of 41 boxes of beef shipped by Atlantic Veal & Lamb Inc.

Japan resumed US beef imports last month after a two-year halt over concerns about mad-cow disease. Trade resumed on condition the meat come from cattle no older than 20 months and that spinal cords, brains and other parts of cattle blamed for spreading the human variant of mad-cow disease are removed.

The plant that exported the suspect meat can no longer export beef to Japan, Johanns said in a statement on Friday. He said additional inspectors would be assigned to review procedures and ensure compliance with the export agreement with Japan.

Mad-cow disease is a brain-wasting livestock illness that scientists say is spread in cattle by tainted animal feed. Eating contaminated meat from infected animals can cause a fatal human variant that has been blamed for the deaths of 151 people in the UK, where it was first reported in the 1980s, according to the World Organization for Animal Health.

US beef exports plunged to 195 million kilograms in 2004 from a record 1.13 billion kilograms in 2003, after mad-cow disease was found in the US. Shipments rose to 290 million kilograms last year as some countries lifted import bans. The USDA on Jan. 12 estimated exports this year at 438.75 million kilograms.

Members of the delegation accompanying Penn are Charles Lambert, a deputy undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, and Curt Mann, undersecretary for food safety and inspection services, the embassy said.

US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, in Japan for two days of talks before attending the World Economic Forum in Davos on Jan. 25-28, is to meet with Foreign Minister Taro Aso today on bilateral military base issues, a foreign ministry spokesman said.

Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, Japan's chief government spokesman, said he would convey Japan's complaint on the beef blunder to Zoellick, Kyodo News reported on Saturday, citing Abe's remarks at a consumer rally in Yamaguchi prefecture.

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