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TOKYO - A delegation of U.S. beef industry leaders made an unprecedented trip here this week to meet with government and industry leaders in hopes of speeding the re-establishment of beef trade between the two nations, valued at $1.4 billion annually.
The trip came exactly one year after a single case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) detected in an imported animal in Washington state halted beef trade between the United States and Japan.
The delegation included Richard L. Bond, president and c.o.o., Tyson Foods, Inc.; William A. Buckner, president, Cargill Meat Solutions; John R. Miller, c.e.o., National Beef Packing Co.; and John Simons, president and c.e.o., Swift & Co., Inc. Patrick Boyle, president and c.e.o. of the American Meat Institute, Philip M. Seng, president and c.e.o., U.S. Meat Export Federation; and Terry Stokes, c.e.o., National Cattlemen's Beef Association, accompanied the meat industry executives.
In October the U.S. and Japan agreed to an official framework for restarting trade. The industry delegation ventured to Japan to inquire about the status of that agreement's implementation and respond to questions and concerns.
Members of the delegation also told officials that they were encouraged that Japan was changing its requirement that all cattle be tested for BSE, because leading experts say BSE can't be detected in animals under 30 months of age. These experts also say that removing any material that can pose a risk ("specified risk materials," or SRMs) is the best way to ensure beef safety.
"Removing any material that may pose a risk is required by law and overseen by federal inspectors, who are in beef plants at all times," noted AMI's Boyle. "It is important to remember that our aggressive surveillance system has detected just one case. Experts in risk assessment at Harvard University studied our system and say that the risk a single case of BSE poses is so low it can scarcely be quantified."