Japan may ask U.S. for more details about beef

Japan may ask the U.S. for more details about its safety measures to prevent any repeat of an export error that sent banned beef parts considered at risk for mad cow disease to Japan, the health minister said Wednesday.

The U.S. government, which is trying to get Japan to overturn its most recent banned on U.S. beef, sent answers last Saturday to questions Tokyo had about an initial U.S. report on the matter, but the responses did not settle all of Japan's safety concerns, Health Minister Jiro Kawasaki said.

Kawasaki told reporters that the U.S. reply, for example, did not mention a similar export blunder in which another U.S. beef company sent banned bones in a shipment to Hong Kong.

"In that context, we cannot confirm the safety measures being taken at the remaining 38 facilities" approved for export to Japan, he said.

Speaking separately to reporters, Agriculture Minister Shoichi Nakagawa said Japan wants to hold talks with U.S. officials after carefully examining Washington's latest reply.

"We do want to keep going back and forth with the U.S. over this issue," he said. "We want the U.S. side to squarely answer our questions."

On Jan. 20, Brooklyn-based Atlantic Veal & Lamb sent a shipment of veal to Japan containing backbone, a violation of conditions Tokyo set for imports of U.S. beef. The incident prompted Tokyo to re-impose an import ban it had lifted less than a month before.

Washington's initial report, delivered in mid-February, said the mistake was an isolated error and did not indicate deep flaws in the American food safety system.

Tokyo, however, questioned whether the mistake was unique and whether similar errors might occur at other U.S. facilities certified to export to Japan, reports the AP.


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