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From: TSS ()
Subject: Japan consumer groups threaten U.S. beef boycott
Date: October 27, 2005 at 11:40 am PST

Japan consumer groups threaten U.S. beef boycott
27 Oct 2005 08:49:26 GMT

Source: Reuters

(Adds Bush visit, base agreement in paragraphs 8-9)

By Aya Takada

TOKYO, Oct 27 (Reuters) - Japanese consumer groups said on Thursday they would launch a campaign to boycott U.S. beef, banned from Japan for nearly two years on concerns about mad cow disease, if the government decides to resume imports.

The government has said it would ease its ban if Japan's Food Safety Commission declares U.S. beef is as safe as domestic meat.

A commission subcommittee that has been assessing the safety of U.S. beef for five months is expected to reach a conclusion at a meeting on Oct. 31.

Yasuaki Yamaura, vice chairman of Consumers Union of Japan, said subcommittee members should not yield to growing pressure from the U.S. and Japanese governments to approve a resumption of imports, as they have acknowledged that U.S. safety measures against mad cow disease are insufficient.

"If the government presses ahead with the plan to resume U.S. beef imports, we will take various actions, including a campaign to boycott U.S. beef," Yamaura told a news conference. He said his organisation and 10 other consumers' and farmers' groups were campaigning against a resumption of imports.

Japan was the biggest global buyer of U.S. beef before the ban was imposed in December 2003, after the first U.S. case of mad cow disease was found in Washington state in December 2003.

The ban has produced a rising tide of anger and frustration in the United States, where lawmakers have proposed retaliatory tariffs on Japanese products if it is not lifted.

The United States and Japan remain at loggerheads over the beef issue, and Washington has been trying to resolve it ahead of a visit to Japan by President George W. Bush on Nov. 16.

The two allies said on Wednesday they had reached agreement on another thorny issue, the relocation of a U.S. military base on the southern island of Okinawa, clearing the way for a deal to reorganise the deployment of U.S. forces throughout Japan.


U.S. beef is at higher risk than Japanese beef, Yamaura said, because the U.S. government does not test all cattle for mad cow disease in order to keep infected animals out of food supplies. In Japan, local governments continue to test all cattle, although the Health Ministry dropped the universal testing policy in August.

He said U.S. cattle were also at higher risk than Japanese animals because their feed may be contaminated with materials that could transmit mad cow disease.

In Japan, meat-and-bone meal (MBM) produced from cattle, which is thought to cause mad cow disease, is banned as a feed for all animals.

The United States banned MBM made from cattle as cattle feed in 1997 but did not bar its use as a feed for other animals such as pigs and poultry. The U.S. government said this month it would tighten its rules on feed, but U.S. consumer groups said the proposals were far too weak.

Always fatal, mad cow disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), is believed to be caused by malformed proteins and spread through infected feed.

Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human version of BSE, is thought to be spread by eating contaminated meat. It has caused more than 150 deaths worldwide, including one in Japan.

In October last year, Japan agreed with the United States to resume imports of beef from cattle aged 20 months or younger, which are considered to be at low risk from BSE.

The countries also agreed that specified risk materials, such as bovine heads and spinal cords, must be removed from cattle of all ages before the meat was shipped to Japan.

Frustrated by Japan's protracted ban, 20 U.S. senators from both political parties have unveiled legislation to impose $3.14 billion in tariffs on Japanese products if the beef ban is not lifted by mid-December.

Before the ban, Japan was the top importer of U.S. beef, with imports valued at $1.4 billion in 2003.


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