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New Japanese Food Import Standards Affecting U.S. Pork Industry

New rules change maximum residue limits for 799 feed additives, veterinary drugs and agriculture chemicals

As reported by the Associated Press

New Japanese food import standards may require more U.S. testing and could force some U.S. pork producers to change what they feed their hogs.

The new rules change maximum residue limits on all food products for 799 feed additives, veterinary drugs and agriculture chemicals. Old standards limited only 283 substances. Producers may have to stop giving hogs these additives for a longer time before slaughter to meet new limits.

With Japan banning U.S. beef amid fears about mad cow disease, the pork industry is cautious. The National Pork Board says one animal in violation of the Japanese regulations, which go into effect Monday, could imperil the lucrative Japanese market.

The new Japanese regulations call for testing levels to remain between 3% and 5% for all imported pork, but the samples that are taken will be tested for a larger number of compounds, said Liz Wagstrom, assistant vice president of science and technology with the National Pork Board.

The first violation will trigger increased testing, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation, Repercussions for repeated violations aren't entirely clear. Also unclear is when enforcement will begin, Wagstrom said.

Japan has been developing the new regulations for more than three years. Within the past 60 days, pork industry leaders received specifics about the new limits and have been working with manufacturers, packers and processors to comply, Wagstrom said.

The new Japanese regulations are based on international standards established by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization to ensure food safety.

U.S. producers follow U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards, which differ for some products.

Japan buys about 750 million pounds of U.S. pork muscle per year — 45% of all U.S. pork exports — at a value of more than $1 billion, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

In March, U.S. pork exports to all countries were almost 23% above last year's level, which the Department of Agriculture partially attributes to foreign restrictions on U.S. beef.

''Importers in Japan need to be prepared, want to avoid risk and make sure with the U.S. that products will be okay,'' said Kevin Smith, assistant director of export services with the Meat Export Federation.

Gene Ver Steeg, president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association, said packers are starting to get the news and adjusting their practices. Iowa is the nation's top pork producer.

''I think their packers will make sure they get up to speed,'' said Ver Steeg, who ships 18,000 hogs a year from his operation near Inwood, IA.

For some, the new regulations will have minimal effect.

Bill Luckey, a hog producer in Columbus, NB, and president of the Nebraska Pork Producers Association, said he tries to use as ''little feed additive as we possibly can'' for his 2,500 hogs and the more than 5,000 hogs he raises for another operation.

''We have to be able to accommodate those buyers,'' he said.