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October 11, 2009

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Japan stops US beef over disease worry

JAPAN has suspended beef shipments from an American meat-packing plant after finding cattle parts banned under an agreement to prevent the spread of mad cow disease, the agriculture ministry said yesterday.

Japanese quarantine inspectors found bovine spinal columns in one of 732 boxes sent by Tyson Fresh Meats Inc which arrived in Japan last month, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said. The box contained 16 kilograms of chilled short loin with spinal bones.

The suspension only affects Tyson's factory in Nebraska, one of 46 meat-packing plants approved to export beef to Japan.

The Japanese ministry also asked the US Department of Agriculture to investigate how the box containing the banned parts ended up in Japan.

Japan banned all US beef imports in 2003 after the first case of mad cow disease was discovered in the United States. It resumed buying American beef in 2006 after a bilateral trade agreement setting new safety standards.

Under the bilateral trade agreement, US exporters must remove spinal columns, brain tissue and other parts considered linked to the mad cow disease. Beef shipments to Japan must be of cattle age 20 months or younger, which are believed to pose less of a risk.

US officials have repeatedly criticized Japan for its tough import restrictions which they say have no scientific basis and urged approval of imports from cattle aged up to 30 months.


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