Japan Prepares For Beef Import Review With US

AUSTRALIA - Japanese inspection teams returned from the US this week after completion of the scheduled audits of US beef exporters.
calendar icon 30 May 2007
clock icon 2 minute read
Meat & Livestock Australia

It was reported that there were no major issues found during the inspection, and the government is now proceeding with a formal assessment of whether the current 100% box inspection requirement should be lifted, as previously discussed with the US. Removal of the 100% box inspection will allow Japanese trade to import more US beef without time consuming and costly compliance procedures.

With the announcement of the lifting expected in coming weeks, the focus of the Japan and the US beef trade negotiations is likely to shift to relaxing the under 21 months of age restriction.

Having granted the US “controlled risk” BSE status, the world animal health organization (OIE) deems it safe for the US to export beef from cattle of all ages (except specified risk materials). However, soon after the upgrade of the US risk status, Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) stated that Japan will conduct an independent scientific assessment prior to any altering of its import requirements (OIE has no authority to impose its recommended trading rules on importing countries).

Despite growing pressure from the US to immediately relax the current age restriction, it is expected that the Japanese government will take careful steps before altering the protocol. The Japan’s Food Safety Commission will need to review any proposed changes concerning import regulations, both after the scientific study and following discussions between the Japan and the US governments.

If Japan wishes to keep import and domestic BSE requirements in harmony, it will be necessary to also relax domestic testing – currently all cattle over 20 months of age slaughtered must be tested for BSE (though, in effect, 100% testing is still being conducted, funded by the Japanese government). MAFF announced this week that it will discontinue the funding of BSE testing for cattle under 21 months from August 2008.

Furthermore, it is uncertain whether the Japanese consumers will agree with the scientific assessments and any proposed relaxing of both domestic testing and import protocols.

The above process suggests that a significant change to Japan’s current import protocols for US beef is unlikely before mid-2008.

TheCattleSite News Desk

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