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From: TSS ()
Subject: JOHANN TRANSCRIPT ON INVESTIGATION INTO SPINAL CORD AND MEAT OFFAL TO JAPAN
Date: February 20, 2006 at 7:15 am PST

Release No. 0048.06
Contact:
Office of Communications (202)720-4623

Printable version


Transcript of Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns Tele-News Conference To Discuss Results of the USDA Investigation of Ineligible Shipment to Japan Washington D.C. - February 17, 2006

MODERATOR: Good morning from Washington. I'm Larry Quinn speaking to you from the Broadcast Center at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Welcome to today's news conference with Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns to discuss the results of the USDA investigation of the ineligible shipment of meat to Japan.

Joining the Secretary in the studio today are J.B. Penn, Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services; Richard Raymond, Under Secretary for Food Safety; and Chuck Lambert, acting Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Program.

This reminder for reporters, if you have questions for the Secretary please press #1 on your telephone touch pad to alert us.

Now it is my pleasure to introduce Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns.

SEC. JOHANNS: Larry, thank you very much. I would like to begin by thanking you all for joining me at what I recognize is a rather early hour, especially for some folks as we move across the country. I hope you all had a chance to grab a cup of coffee at least before you get your pens and your tape recorders ready.

I do want to take a moment at the start here if I could and just explain the reason behind the early call. As you know the purpose of the call is to release the report on the investigation into the ineligible shipment of beef to Japan. As you might imagine there's been a tremendous interest in this report, not only here in the United States but also in Japan.

I've indicated for the past several weeks that we would present it to the Japanese government as expeditiously as possible once the investigation was complete. Late yesterday we determined that the report was very close to being final and that the last I's were being dotted and the T's were being crossed.

It was not ready for release yet last night however, but we knew it would be by this morning. And in fact we had some people doing last-minute work last evening.

I didn't want to delay any longer the release of the report once it was done, and I have to point out that as I speak it's about 9:00 in the evening in Japan. So because of that time difference, here we are at 7:00 a.m. releasing this report so we could get it out in both countries.

The Japanese government is literally receiving the report as I speak. I also want to let you know that the bulk of the report is now available on the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service website. There will soon be a link from our own homepage to that.

I said the bulk of the report because the entire report is actually about 475 pages long with appendixes. So we are posting on the web all of the narrative of the report from the findings of the investigation to the actions we are taking.

Anyone who would like to review or to view all 475 pages is certainly welcome to do that. You can get in touch with our Communications Office. Numbers are listed on a press release we're putting out, and they'll be happy to facilitate that effort.

Before I get into the detail of the report I want to once again express my regret over the incident and assure our trading partners that we take the matter seriously. I think that will be very obvious as I work through what we have found here and talk about the thoroughness.

The report and the actions taken do demonstrate just how serious we are in addressing the incident and providing assurance to our trading partners that our system is really amongst the best in the world.

With that, let me talk a little bit about the contents of the report. For starters the report lays out some basic facts. For example, the fact that this was the one and only shipment of veal to Japan. The fact that while the ineligible shipment constituted an unacceptable error, the veal posed absolutely no risk to human health. There was no danger there. And the report lays out three unique circumstances surrounding this shipment.

There were only two plants certified to ship veal to Japan. This was the first shipment of veal delivered and the plants were delisted before any other shipments were sent to Japan.

Additionally, veal had only recently been added to the export agreement with Japan, so the newness of the program contributed to the uniqueness of the incident.

I will also tell you that I believe the actions we are taking not only fully and thoroughly address the actions that led to this incident but I also believe that the actions that we are taking will provide added protection.

Now let me if I might take a moment now and talk about the contents. I should clarify one point so there isn't any confusion. We are actually relaying to Japan one document that contains two distinct reports. Our Food Safety and Inspection Service conducted a thorough investigation, and this document contains their findings. The Office of Inspector General, which provides independent oversight of the federal government, conducted a separate audit, I might indicate at our request; and their findings are also included although it is a separate document.

I appreciate the cooperation between FSIS and the IG's Office as they conducted their separate investigations.

The full report contains 11 findings, five of which are a result of the Food Safety and Inspection investigation, and six of which are the result of the Inspector General's audit. I can tell you that their findings mirror each other to a large extent. The report also outlines 15 additional actions we are taking in response to the findings.

You will recall that I announced 12 steps on the day we were alerted to the ineligible shipment.

I will summarize the key points in the report for you this morning, and invite you to view the detail, every finding, every action we are taking in response. And as I said, that is up on our website.

I'll now take a moment to review the facts presented in the report. The report reveals that a customer in Japan ordered very specific products from a U.S. veal plant. The name of that plant is Atlantic Veal and Lamb. That was done on December 27th. The plant was certified on January 6 to export veal to Japan. Their supplier, Golden Veal, owned by the same individual, was also certified on January 6.

USDA personnel confirmed at the time each plant was audited; both understood the requirements of the program including the removal of the vertebral column under our export agreement with Japan.

Here's another fact. The shipment also contained veal offal. And while Atlantic was authorized to ship veal offal to Japan, Golden Veal was not authorized to supply it to Japan. Not only was veal offal from this source not approved to be shipped to Japan, we studied the quantity. The quantity of offal in the shipment could not have come from the 21 calves slaughtered after the plant was certified to ship to Japan. We know some of the offal had to have come from animals slaughtered before the plant was certified to ship the product into Japan.

Those are the facts.

Now let me if I might talk about findings and actions.

I will summarize at this point the findings of the reports and our actions. First, the personnel at both plants should have known they were not certified to send this shipment due to both veal offal and the presence of the vertebral column.

Secondly, our USDA Food Safety inspectors should also have known that and should have identified these products as ineligible to be shipped to Japan. In response, all of our FSIS inspectors who work in plants that are certified to export beef are undergoing additional mandatory training to ensure they fully understand the export agreements.

We will require plants to maintain a list of specific products they are certified to ship to any country instead of a blanket export certification. That list will be readily available to our inspectors.

And our inspectors in the plants will be notified of changes to a plant's eligibility to export at three separate times in the certification process. One, when the plant applies for certification. Two, when the plant is audited. And three, when a plant is certified or delisted.

Furthermore, the final export certification cannot be completed until our in-plant inspectors have undergone additional training. For those who might not be familiar with our system, the export certification process is handled by our Agricultural Marketing Service, not our Food Safety Inspection personnel. So this step ensures that there's a seamless coordination between these two agencies.

Another important part of our response is a requirement of a second signature on every shipment of beef for export unless one or more of our trading partners indicate a second signature is not necessary.

Let me offer some concluding thoughts, and then we'll be happy to take your questions.

I will be candid with you. I believe this is a very robust response to a single incident that did not present a danger to the public. That speaks to the extent to which we took this matter seriously. From here I would expect to engage in dialog with the Japanese government. We welcome that dialog.

They'll likely have some questions to which we will provide answers very quickly and expeditiously. Then my hope is that it will not be long before beef trade resumes.

With that I will be happy to answer any questions that may be out there.

MODERATOR: Just a reminder before we begin questions, reporters remember to press #1 on your telephone touch pad to indicate that you wish to ask a question.

Our first question will come from Steve Kaye of Cattle Buyers Weekly. Standing by should be Peter Shinn. Steve?

REPORTER: Yes, Mr. Secretary, good morning. Forgive me if I didn't hear you quite right. It's only 10 after 4:00 out here on the West Coast. I understand that the report, and I haven't been able to bring it up on the website yet, that you say the personnel at both plants as well as the USDA inspector all should have known what product was eligible for shipment or not. Could you expand on that a little bit? Did they actually examine the racks, for example, and not be aware that there was vertebral columns still on those racks? Or were they not aware that vertebral column was prohibited?

SEC. JOHANNS: Here's the interesting thing, Steve. And again let me just say to you folks on the West Coast how badly I feel about hauling you out of bed at this hour of the day. But in view of the fact that it is 9:00 p.m. in Japan we had limited opportunity here to do this any other time.

Having said that, here's the interesting thing, Steve, about this. When you study the documents that are in the appendixes, you will see that the product was clearly labeled. You can look at the document. It identifies the hotel rack of veal. That would indicate that a vertebral column is there. If you study the documentation for the boxes, they list the offal. This was not a situation where somebody was trying to put something on the bottom of the box and not label it.

So very, very clearly the documentation indicates that they were shipping that product to Japan and when you look at the documentation and compare it with what's in the box that's exactly what you see.

That would indicate that there wasn't an understanding. This would appear at least to me, just me speaking, that this was not a situation where somebody was trying to hide something and not list it on the documents. Quite the opposite happened.

So it pretty clearly indicates that they were just not connecting, as was the inspector, as to what could be shipped into that Japanese market.

REPORTER: So Mr. Secretary as a quick follow-up, are you pretty confident now with the new safeguards and additional measures you put in place that a human error like this will not occur again?

SEC. JOHANNS: Steve, I'll just be very candid with you. The safeguards we have in place I think are just outstanding safeguards. Not only did we give a great deal of thought to the process of preparing the report, doing the investigation, but there was a significant amount of effort and discussion and analysis as to not only the original 12 safeguards but the additional safeguards.

And the second thing I will offer to you is that the Inspector General was brought in to bring another very independent review of this, and the Inspector General's Office made some additional recommendations, which we agreed with.

So I would have to tell you, I think these safeguards are an outstanding response to a situation that occurred, and these safeguards are going to be very effective in dealing with this kind of issue and problem.

MODERATOR: Before we begin our next question, remind reporters to limit your questions to one so that we can get to several reporters that are on the line here. Our next question comes from Peter Shinn, and he'll be followed by Tony Purcell. Peter, go ahead. (no response) Let's go on then to Tony Purcell at Texas -- Tony, are you there?

REPORTER: I'm here. Hello? Hello? Hello?

MODERATOR: Go ahead.

REPORTER: Yes. Mr. Secretary. Your chief economist, Keith Collins, has indicated he expects the beef trade with Japan to resume sometime in the second quarter. Could you give some further detail as to the process of reopening the Japanese market? And do you agree with Dr. Collins' assessment?

SEC. JOHANNS: Tony, let me tell you, I was in that lockup the day that that was released, and I'll be very candid with you-- I'm not sure that was any kind of analysis or determination or any kind of projection. Those folks needed to establish a date to try to base a projection on, but Keith or I don't have any real insight as to the date that the market will open.

There was some concern in Japan that somehow there was an agreement of some kind on a specific date. And let me just tell you, that is absolutely not the case. This was just an effort by Dr. Collins to put some thing in upon which we could talk about our projections. So let me clear that up.

Where do we go from here? Japan's government, of course, has been very anxious to receive the report. It has now been delivered to them. They have that in their possession. It is a very lengthy report. But we will have our people in Japan. We have a presence there, as you know, with people that are stationed there. And we'll work with Japan to answer any questions they have. If there's a need at some point to dispatch a team from USDA to Japan, we'll do that. Or if Japan wants to come here, we would welcome that also.

Our hope is that we can answer the questions very quickly. Japan has indicated that they, after looking at the report, may require some additional inspection of plants. That would be fine; we'll work with them on that issue. So now it's a matter of working through the report with them and then going from there.

So I'm going to hesitate to set a date because when that date arrives if the market isn't open people will be asking what happened.

But I will promise you this. We are going to move thoroughly, but we're also going to do everything we can to make sure that time doesn't pass without us working toward a resolution.

MODERATOR: As it turns out that was Peter Shinn of NAFB. We're going now to Tony Purcell with Texas State Network. And standing by should be Sally Schuff. Tony, go ahead, please.

REPORTER: Okay, thanks, Larry. And good morning, Mr. Secretary. I guess welcome to the world of farm broadcasting. I think most of us that are on the line with you this morning have already been up for several hours.

SEC. JOHANNS: You know, Tony, I said to somebody, they said my, this is early. And I said, you know the cows were milked by this time and we were in having breakfast. So, go ahead Tony.

REPORTER: Exactly. Okay. You know given the politics of this whole situation in Japan and you know so far we've been taking the full blame on this, but also it seems to me the Japanese importer should have known the requirements. Was this a setup for the test to see if we were going to fail?

SEC. JOHANNS: I would not suggest that at all, and I was asked some weeks ago, did this order come from Japan? And I indicated that it did. But I will tell you today what I said then. I'm not blaming anything on anyone. We have responsibility to make sure that this is done in accordance with our agreement with Japan. And it just simply was not.

You know, enough said. That's just the way I feel about it. We responded aggressively as you can see from the report. We did it thorough. We didn't cut any corners. We asked for an independent review by the Inspector General. We're complying with the recommendations that not only we see but the Inspector General saw. And so our goal always is to have a first class system. And I'm confident that this was done in a first class way.

MODERATOR: Our next question comes from Sally Schuff and she'll be followed by Libby Quaid. Sally Schuff, go ahead.

REPORTER: Good morning, Mr. Secretary. Thank you for taking the questions. My question is, Japan has had 22 cases of BSE and it's well-known that they continue feeding imported meat and bonemeal from European countries well into 2001. And yet we're continuing to import their beef. Do you have the same level of confidence that the beef that we're importing from Japan is meeting the kind of standards that you're setting in responding to this? And if not, are you considering any actions to stall or sanction that beef?

SEC. JOHANNS: Sally, that's an excellent question. Japan has had 22 cases of BSE. The most recent case occurred soon after this incident as a matter of fact. As I've mentioned before, Sally, this was an interesting time for me. We had Japan receive this vertebral column, which in the United States is perfectly fine. According to international standards it would be fine. But it did not meet the export agreement that we had with Japan.

Then Japan identified their case of BSE. Canada identified another case of BSE. And yes, I got calls from people saying, you should close the border to Japan and you should close the border to Canada.

And you've heard that discussion and you've heard about those calls. They've been reported.

Sally, the promise I make to the Japanese government and the promise I made to the opposition when they were here is that I promised them I won't be basing my decisions upon political dynamics, who's calling me or writing me. I will turn to our scientists and those who do the risk assessment, which I did.

And we are confident based upon science and the risk assessment that was done that those markets should remain open.

Now I will take another step further. I feel very, very strongly that in the world of international trade we treat others in a way that we hope to be treated. And so whether it's Japan or any other country out there, whether it's cars or tires or beef or pork or whatever it is, we just ask people to base their decisions upon science and their response based upon science, not upon the difficulty of the political situation.

I will tell you based upon science I am very absolutely comfortable in saying these shipments did not pose a danger to the Japanese consumer. I am also comfortable in saying that receiving beef from Japan, even though they've had 22 cases of BSE, does not pose a danger to our consumers. And I would say the same about the Canadian market.

REPORTER: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Our next question comes from Libby Quaid of Associated Press followed by Kaori Iida. Libby, go ahead, please.

REPORTER: Hi, Mr. Secretary. Can you say how has the Department disciplined the inspector or inspectors, and also how extensive their new training will be?

SEC. JOHANNS: Yeah, training will be very extensive, and it will be ongoing. And we just won't make any assumptions that it is nailed down. I feel strongly that training has to be refreshed. We expect to do that. Training as you know has already started. It started immediately. And so we will make sure that that is followed up upon.

In terms of disciplinary action, as you might expect because of the personnel nature of that I just don't comment on those things. It wouldn't be fair for me. But I can assure you on the training aspect that I regard training as important, and we intend to make sure that that training is done and that folks continue to receive ongoing training so this kind of situation doesn't arise again.

REPORTER: Can you say whether there was any --

MODERATOR: Next question comes from Kaori Iida from NHK Broadcasting. Standing by is Bill Tomson. Kaori, please.

REPORTER: Hello, Mr. Secretary. In a nutshell, why did this inspector who should have been well-trained overlook the vertebral column? And is your answer to Minister Nakagawa's questions on the OIG BSE audit report included today?

SEC. JOHANNS: I can tell you that we sent a separate binder to Japan which details the response to that two-year audit that Minister Nakagawa raised. And so I'm glad you asked that because that is not a part of the very large binder that we delivered to him, but in a separate binder we complied with his wishes. And we've sent that response out.

I would also mention that that is available if people want to take a look at that. So we would make that available and if it's not up on the website get in touch with our Communications Office and they'll deal with that.

In terms of the situation here, I don't want to make any excuses. The plant should have known, the inspector should have known. One of the things that I would point out, and I don't offer it as an excuse only as an explanation. This was a situation where discussion about veal as a part of the program with Japan, really arose in the last days. Japan indicated that, yes, but all of the requirements had to be met.

These two plants were the only plants certified to ship veal. Veal in this case and in the United States is a very, very young animal processed -- six months or thereabouts. And so there wasn't any kind of health risk here. But having said that, there still should have been, it should have been identified and it just wasn't. And so newness of the system, newness of veal being added, the requirements. But I don't offer that as an excuse.

Our goal here is to recognize that it wasn't done, and we put in place the recommendations to solve that problem.

MODERATOR: Bill Tomson's question will be next followed by Michael Benesch. Bill Tomson, go ahead, please.

REPORTER: Mr. Secretary, I for one have never lived on a farm, and this is extremely early for me. Did you talk to the Japanese Agriculture Secretary when you handed over this? And the second folder, the second binder on the Japanese Minister's request, Mr. Nakagawa, have they expressed, do they accept the USDA definition of a "downer cow?" And did they accept USDA's explanation that there were no specified risk material that entered the food supply?

SEC. JOHANNS: In reference to your first question, the delivery of the report was handled by our ambassador in Tokyo. We got a report out to them I think via secure fax last evening which would be during the day for Tokyo. Bill, to everyone else out there, I believe the ambassador was speaking to the Japanese media literally as I started speaking to you. I think it was simultaneous. So there's probably going to be some reports on what he said, and so I would offer that to you.

I'm not certain what conversations he had as he handed the report to the Japanese government, but like I said he's talking to the media there. So that should be available.

In reference to the audit report, as you know that audit report was the one that actually Secretary Veneman requested when the enhanced surveillance was started now nearly a couple years ago. Yeah, I don't think there's been any debate that I'm aware of with Japan about the finding by the Inspector General that no specified risk materials could be proven to have entered the food supply.

The OIG found no evidence that downer cattle entered the food supply, and I know of nothing by the Japanese government that is contesting that.

In terms of the downer animals, in a two-year period of time we will process -- well, we process about 30 million animals a year, so that would have been about 60 million animals if it's over two years. And I think there were 20-some animals, yeah 29 animals where there was some confusion about what does "downer" animal mean.

The situation here that we offer to Japan is that as animals are processed they are inspected at a given point. These animals passed inspection. Once through inspection they fell on a slippery floor or something, broke a leg. So it raised the question of documentation. Should this animal enter the food supply or not enter the food supply? What's the definition of "downer?"

One of the things that I would point out, and I don't think it's been well-covered in Japan at least, is that that was a clean audit. What do I mean by that? It was an audit we requested. We wanted that oversight. The Inspector General came and said, we see these issues. And we said, we understand, we agree. And we either agreed to their recommendations or we offered recommendations and they agreed to what we offered. But in the end it was a clean audit.

That means that their findings were acknowledged, and the recommendations were agreed upon, and we are implementing those.

So I think once that explanation is put in front of them in this audit report, there hopefully will be a better understanding in Japan of what that was all about.

MODERATOR: Our next question comes from Michael Benesch from TV Tokyo. Standing by should be Ron Hayes. Michael?

REPORTER: Hello. Thank you for taking my question. I was wondering, how long do you think it will be before a new pressure for Japan to open up its borders will come from Capitol Hill?

SEC. JOHANNS: You know, Capitol Hill has been by and large very patient as we've worked through this. And my whole effort here is to answer the questions and solve the problem. And so my hope is that pressure is not a part of this, and we'll work through it with the Japanese government and solve the problem.

So you know Michael, obviously we've gotten questions about well -- in all our surveillance out there we've found one native animal in a herd of over 90 million animals in the United States. BSE is virtually nonexistent here. We've had a feed ban in place for a lot of years now, and with the removal of specified risk materials you remove the danger for consumers. So we do get asked questions.

But in my discussions what I'm saying is, look, we've got the report now out there; let's go ahead and work with the Japanese government and solve this problem. And that will take care of the issue.

MODERATOR: Our next question comes from Ron Hayes of Clear Channel Ag Networks. And he'll be followed by Chris Clayton. Ron?

REPORTER: Thank you, Larry. And good morning, Mr. Secretary. In Denver at the cattle industry meeting, you enunciated the fact very clearly that this is a most special agreement with the Japanese that we had. Beef coming of course from animals 20 months of age or younger. They point-blank said several times they have no interest in taking any beef from any older animals. So it just seems to me that this discussion about downer animals is really not that germane to this agreement. Have you been able to separate these two issues as you talk with our Japanese friends?

SEC. JOHANNS: Oh, you know, every issue gets brought up, Ron, to be candid with you about it. But your observation is a correct observation. This is a very unusual agreement. I think the whole world including Japan acknowledges that with animals 20 months and under there isn't a danger relative to BSE. You just don't find BSE in animals that age or younger with our current testing -- or with testing anywhere in the world.

So, but you know we entered into that agreement. There were specifications in the agreement. They are the customer. You know the rule, we try to do everything we can to recognize the customer's requirements and comply with those. But this is a unique agreement to our world trade when it comes to beef, no doubt about it.

It is well beyond anything required in international standards, well beyond anything required by any other trading partner in the world.

MODERATOR: Chris Clayton has the next question. Chris is with DTN. Asuka Konishia should be standing by. Chris?

REPORTER: Thanks for taking the calls, Mr. Secretary. Do you get a sense though that in Japan that right now opposition to U.S. beef over there, they are basically just seizing upon any fact or finding to continue to keep U.S. beef out and that this could drag on much like the first case did. This could be not just weeks or months but possibly even longer.

And why did we basically, the United States, go beyond current OIE standards in our agreement in allowing beef over 30 months from Japan when even their own ag minister said they would not agree to that themselves?

SEC. JOHANNS: I'll take the second question first, Chris. In reference to your second question, I believe the United States has to be the leader in science-based trade. If we send a signal to the rest of the world that we will ignore science, if I were to send the signal that when the politics warms up here I will cave in to that, then we don't have much of a trading system. It will be a trading system based upon the whim of whoever happens to be in my place or a place similar to mine someplace else in the world.

Under the OIE standards, any beef is safe with safeguards in place. You know it isn't tied to that age, and those are some fairly recent changes to OIE standards. But we endeavor to live by the OIE standards because we have the ability to send scientists and engage in discussion relative to those standards. Japan would, anybody would. And the best scientists in the world look at these issues and decide what those standards should be.

And so we are always going to insist upon trading partners recognizing the standards in trading based upon those scientifically based standards.

In reference to your question, I certainly hope this is not a situation where there's just an attempt to look for any reason. I will get back to what I said before. We reached an agreement. That actually happened right before I arrived, and I think the thought was, let's get some trading going in beef. But we reached that agreement; we shook hands on it. We said we would recognize that agreement, and the shipment didn't meet the specifications of that agreement. So be it.

I'm not going to attempt to pass the blame to anybody else. It didn't meet the requirements. We acknowledged that. We looked into it very thoroughly. We've now published our report. And now my hope is that we can work through the report and renew trading relations with Japan in beef.

MODERATOR: Asuka Konishia from Nippon TV is next with a question. Go ahead, Asuka.

SEC. JOHANNS: Thank you. Good morning, Mr. Secretary. Thank you for your time. My question is, do you think it's possible for Japan to change its standards on U.S. beef imports? And what is the message you have to consumers in Japan?

SEC. JOHANNS: The message I have to consumers in Japan is that United States beef does not present a danger to them, and I will be very, very clear in saying that U.S. beef does not present a danger to them.

Why do I say that? I say that because we have reached a very, very unusual, a very special agreement with the Japanese government. Beef under this program is from animals under 20 months, and you just don't find BSE in those circumstances, not with the testing that is out there.

So I would just want to be very clear about that.

The other thing I would say, Asuka, to the Japanese consumer is this. I enjoy beef every day in my diet. It is a very unusual day that I don't enjoy U.S. beef. My family enjoys it. My children. My grandchildren. I will also share with you that there's no special provisions here. I walk into a supermarket like any other consumer in the United States. I go to the counter where they sell U.S. beef. I look at it with my wife Stephanie, and there isn't a time that we don't go to the grocery store and buy beef from that counter. We take it home, we prepare it, and we enjoy it with our family.

There isn't a danger here to the Japanese consumer.

The other thing I will say is this. Our goal is to solve this situation. We reached an agreement with Japan to start beef trade. And we must live by that agreement, and where we haven't and we acknowledge that and do everything we can to solve that problem. But again, this was not a situation where this was a dangerous product. It was not.

The other thing I will say is this. We've done very, very extensive testing in the United States of our animals. We've had a feed ban in place for a long time, and through that extensive testing even testing what some would regard as the most high-risk animals we have found virtually no BSE in the United States. And that's in a herd of over 90 million animals.

So there are so many reasons why I can tell the Japanese consumer that first and foremost we regret this, we apologize for it happening, but I want to assure them that this is not a danger to them.

MODERATOR: And our final question today comes from Kate Kairies from Asahi Shimbun. Kate?

REPORTER: Thank you. Mr. Secretary, I have a question of the 40 facilities initially certified to export beef to Japan. The two involved in this case have been delisted, but what will be the status of the remaining facilities? And will they have to undergo recertification or what will happen to them?

SEC. JOHANNS: We will work with Japan on how they want to approach that. These two plants were delisted. And of course because of the decision to do a total ban on beef trade that means that no plant is shipping beef because that market slammed shut.

But having said that, after the report is reviewed I'm confident the Japanese government will want to make recommendations, requirements on what needs to happen for beef trade to resume or for plants to be listed. We will work with the Japanese government. They've talked about additional certification and examination of the plants. We will help to facilitate that. But we'll work with Japan to try to answer that question and decide the process for normal resumption of beef trade with Japan under the agreement that we reached, the BEV agreement that we have with Japan.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Any final thoughts today?

SEC. JOHANNS: Let me just wrap up my comments today by again thanking everyone for getting on the line with us today. The report is on the website, and if it's not people are working to get it up. It is on, I'm told of that.

We do have the full report, and we do have the response to the audit report. And those will be available. Those documents have been placed in the hands of the Japanese government.

I also want to mention that we will be distributing that information on Capitol Hill today so people can be aware of that.

The other thing that I want to mention is this. Again I want to express how sincerely we regret the situation here. We reached an agreement with Japan. We need to send a very strong message that we will live by that agreement. Our report was very thorough. We brought in independent review with the Inspector General's Office. We have made recommendations, which we are going to implement. We will work with the Japanese government in terms of any recommendations, questions that they may have relative to the report.

And I am optimistic that we can work though this. Japan has been an excellent trading partner for many, many years. And we want to make sure that our trading relationship, our bilateral trading relation, continues to be excellent for both Japan and the United States.

Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns, and reporters thank you for being with us today. We can confirm that the report is now available on the USDA FSIS website. You can go to http://www.fsis.usda.gov/. The link is also available from our USDA home page, http://www.usda.gov/.

I'm Larry Quinn bidding you a good day from Washington.

http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/!ut/p/_s.7_0_A/7_0_1OB/.cmd/ad/.ar/sa.retrievecontent/.c/6_2_1UH/.ce/7_2_5JM/.p/5_2_4TQ/.d/2/_th/J_2_9D/_s.7_0_A/7_0_1OB?PC_7_2_5JM_contentid=2006%2F02%2F0048.xml&PC_7_2_5JM_navtype=RT&PC_7_2_5JM_parentnav=TRANSCRIPTS_SPEECHES&PC_7_2_5JM_navid=TRANSCRIPT#7_2_5JM


THIS is like a 3 ring circus, with bozo at the helm. ...tss



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