Japan Halts U.S. Imports
Jan. 20, 2006

Japan halted U.S. beef imports today due to a recent shipment containing animal spines.

According to CNN.com, Japanese inspectors at Tokyo International Airport discovered three boxes of frozen beef containing attached spinal cord, a violation of the agreement to export U.S. beef from cattle 20 months of age and younger and free from a vertebral column.

The Japanese Agriculture Ministry has halted all U.S. beef imports until the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) can explain the findings.

The news comes as a devastating blow to the U.S. meat industry, just days after officials achieved encouraging trade breakthroughs with Singapore and Taiwan.

Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns announced this morning that the USDA is conducting a thorough investigation into the matter.

“The processing plant that exported this product has been de-listed and, therefore, can no longer export beef to Japan,” Johanns said. “We will take the appropriate personnel action against the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) employee who conducted the inspection of the product in question and approved it to be shipped to Japan.”

In his statement, Johanns announced a series of corrective actions.

“I am dispatching a team of USDA inspectors to Japan to work with Japanese inspectors to re-examine every shipment currently awaiting approval, to confirm compliance with the requirements of our export agreement with Japan,” he said.

In addition, USDA inspectors will be sent to every processing plant approved for beef export to review procedures and ensure compliance with export agreements. Johanns is also requiring that two USDA inspectors review every shipment of U.S. beef for export to confirm compliance.

“I have also ordered unannounced inspections at every plant approved for beef export,” he said. “We are in communication with Japanese officials and we will continue that dialogue to assure them that we take this matter very seriously and we are acting swiftly and firmly.”

According to CNN, it is unclear how long the halt of imports will last.

— by Crystal Albers, Angus Productions Inc.

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