Japan and Mad Cow Disease

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In December 2005 Japan lifted the ban it placed on U.S. beef after the 2003 discovery of mad cow disease in America. This prion disease has killed more than 150 people worldwide and is spread among cattle by feeding them slaughterhouse waste byproducts. Yet the U.S. livestock industry continues this lucrative practice, and the U.S. government refuses to institute food safety testing of beef. The New York Times quotes the Center for Media and Democracy's John Stauber, co-author of Mad Cow USA, saying, "From the standpoint of human and animal safety this is a disastrous decision by the Japanese. They have taken a huge step backward." [1]

The U.S. Meat Export Federation has launched a PR campaign to win back Japanese consumers, who surveys show do not trust U.S. beef. The campaign includes "advertisements, trade shows, town hall educational meetings and endorsements from Japanese who eat U.S. beef." For example, White Sox second baseman Tadahito Iguchi "credits power to launch his 1,000 career hits and score 14 home runs in his rookie season to U.S. beef." [2]

On January 20, 2006 Japanese re-imposed the ban after discovering three boxes of veal shipped by the Brooklyn-based Atlantic Veal & Lamb breached import restrictions. In agreeing to lift its ban on U.S. beef, Japan had insisted that only cattle under 20 months in age be allowed in but only if material such as brains and spinal cords had been removed. The shipment, which had been approved for export by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, included spinal cord material. [3]

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