Japan Proposes to Lift Age on US Beef Imports11 September 2012
US - Japan’s Prion Expert Investigation Committee finalised their risk assessment report on 5 September, supporting alterations to the import protocols for US beef.
While the current import protocols only allows the importation of US beef from cattle younger than 21 months of age, the alterations will see this lifted to younger than 31 months, effectively increasing the volume of US beef that is eligible to be exported to Japan.
The change had been proposed to the Food Safety Commission (FSC) by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) last December, together with the request to evaluate the safety of the BSE testing practice for the Japanese domestic beef.
Meat and Livestock Australia says that according to the Japanese media reports, the Prion Committee – which resides under the FSC structure – has also clarified the safety of beef sourced from Canadian, French and Dutch cattle that are younger than 31 months of age. The assessment was also made that there will be no impact to human health if the BSE testing for the Japanese cattle is changed from under 21 months to less than 31 months.
Currently, all prefectural councils with cattle processing facilities in Japan continue BSE testing of all cattle regardless the age, with the Japanese government funding test kits used for animals older than 21 months of age.
The FSC is expected to conduct public hearing sessions upon receipt of a formal report from the Prion Committee. The expert group will then be required to report back to MHLW which is responsible for administering the actual import protocols change. No official confirmation on the alteration schedule has been made by the Japanese government.