TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japan has slapped a temporary ban on beef imports from a U.S. meatpacking plant as recent shipments from it included meat that may have been taken from cattle aged more than 20 months in violation of a bilateral beef trade agreement, the agriculture and health ministries said Wednesday.
The fifth ban of its kind, imposed on Monday, will stay in force until Japan receives a detailed investigation report on the matter from the United States, they said.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, of 1,333 packages, or 9 tons, of frozen beef leg from Cargill Inc.'s plant in Dodge City, Kansas, which arrived at Kobe port on Sept. 20, some 225 packages carried no safety certificate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Japan limits U.S. beef imports to those from cattle aged 20 months or less as a result of the first U.S. case of the mad cow disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, found in December 2003.
Japan's import conditions also include the removal of brains, spinal cords and other specific risk materials that could cause the disease.
The packages in question did not include such risk materials but the absence of a safety certificate attached to the meat makes it impossible to check whether it is from cattle clearing the age limit, the ministries said.
According to the farm ministry, the importer of the packages, Japan Food Corp. based in Tokyo, told the ministry that the packages in question, which were destined for elsewhere, were mistakenly included in shipments to Japan.
The Japanese and U.S. government are in talks on relaxation of Japan's import conditions, but the arrival of the uncertified meat may affect the negotiations.