Japan Imposes Ban on European Beef Imports

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Nando Times

Japan imposes ban on European beef imports

Agence France-Presse

TOKYO (December 24, 2000 10:26 p.m. EST http://www.nandotimes.com) - Japan has decided to impose a total ban on beef imports from the European Union in a move to keep out mad cow disease, an agriculture ministry official said Monday.

"This is a large-scale measure," said Kazuo Ito of the ministry's farming hygiene division. "Like the measures taken within the European Union, the ban is based on the idea of prevention."

The ban was officially posted on Friday and will take effect on January 1. It will target beef and beef products produced in the 15 EU member countries as well as in Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

It also prohibits the use of ingredients derived from EU cattle, sheep and goats in animal medical products and animal feed.

Also on the banned list are EU imports of cattle sperm and ova, which are used in farming for fertilization.

"It is designed to serve as an extremely precautionary measure," Ito told AFP, adding the agriculture ministry had yet to decide how long the ban would stay in place.

The EU countries account for 0.1 percent of Japan's annual beef imports, with the United States and Australia making up 95 percent.

But Japan now joins a growing list of countries, most recently Iran, in suspending EU beef imports for fear of the disease formally called bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

The World Health Organization on Friday warned other nations, notably developing ones, that the economic impact could be enormous if BSE entered their farming industries.

Also on Friday a Paris court opened an investigation to determine whether British, French and EU officials should face charges for failing to take steps to contain BSE.

On December 13, Japan announced a total ban on animal feed made from EU meat and bone meal, and a ban on the use of medical ingredients derived from cattle from 29 nations.

Experts say eating meat from BSE-infected cattle can lead to a fatal human form of the brain-wasting illness, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD).

Japan's imports of beef from the EU, Switzerland and Liechtenstein was 740 metric tons from April to October, accounting for a small proportion of its total beef imports of 784,600 metric tons.

"As beef imports from the EU make up such a small percentage of the total, the ban is unlikely to have any major impact on our country's meat supplies as a whole," the ministry official added.

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), December 24, 2000

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