KOGA Says! RENGO's Statement by General Secretary

Rengo’s Statement on the Contamination of U.S. Beef Imports with Specific Risk Materials

23 January 2006
RENGO’s Statement by General Secretary Koga
  1. On January 20, the Japanese government announced that a consignment of U.S. beef arriving at Narita International Airport had been found to contain spine, a specified risk material (SRM) where the pathogen causing bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is most likely to accumulate. It immediately decided to re-impose its ban on the import of U.S. beef.

    The latest suspension was imposed because the U.S. government failed to observe the requirements of the U.S. beef importation program agreed on by the two governments, which constituted the prerequisite for lifting the ban imposed on U.S. and Canadian beef imports last year. RENGO strongly protests the U.S. government’s sloppiness in meeting those requirements, in violation of the bilateral agreement.

  2. Regarding the report of the health impact assessment on U.S.-produced beef, which was compiled by the Prion Task Force of the Food Safety Commission, an advisory body to the Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare, RENGO filed a written opinion last November, arguing that: (1) the Japanese government has the responsibility to explain the deliberation process and the recommendations, (2) the government should continue to request necessary information and materials and make efforts to grasp the situation, and (3) it should ensure that the beef importation program is strictly observed and that concrete policies are implemented.

  3. The cause of the latest event is clearly the fact that the Japanese government decided to re-start imports of U.S. beef based primarily on diplomatic considerations between the two countries, without adequate verification of the effectiveness of the U.S. beef importation program and measures to ensure the observation of the program requirements, which were strongly called for by the Food Safety Commission to the relevant risk management authorities, i.e. the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

    RENGO believes that the Japanese government bears a heavy responsibility for bringing about this regrettable event, and we must once again criticize its decision to permit imports, with little consideration for ensuring food safety for the Japanese public.

  4. The government should make clear that it bears responsibility for the latest incident, and should ask the U.S. side to provide necessary information and materials, and make efforts to grasp the overall situation. Further, the government should not re-start imports of U.S. beef unless the U.S. side articulates its clear intention to observe the requirements of the beef importation program, involving the removal of specified risk materials and meat production from cattle less than 20 months in age, and demonstrates concrete measures for observing the requirements.

  5. In order to guarantee that the U.S. complies with the requirements of the beef importation program, RENGO calls upon the Japanese government to take specific measures such as dispatching Japanese inspectors to the U.S. to ensure that the beef importation program is being properly carried out, and to call on both the U.S. and Canada to implement a total ban on me

    To alleviate people’s anxiety and distrust toward beef, and restore safety and confidence in our food, RENGO will intensify its campaign to seek food safety in partnership with citizens and consumers.