'Meaningless' B.S.E. testing hinders U.S. beef industry


(MEATPOULTRY.com, October 16, 2008)
by Bryan Salvage


Source of Article: http://www.meatpoultry.com/news/daily_enews.asp?ArticleID=97202&e=pmgray@wsu.edu






TOKYO –What is hindering a hungry world’s access to protein, driving up food costs and harming local economies, as well as the U.S. beef industry, are the combination of an overreliance on meaningless testing and a lack of focus on documenting the effectiveness of steps that are making significant inroads against Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy. So claimed Dr. Ulrich Kihm, a leading global expert on B.S.E., at a conference on Oct. 15 in Tokyo for Japan’s opinion leaders hosted by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

The former chief veterinary officer of Switzerland with extensive experience in the research and analysis of infectious animal diseases, including B.S.E., spoke at the seminar. Other speakers included Dr. Masahiko Ariji, a researcher for the AMITA Institute for Sustainable Economics, plus a panel of Japanese journalists and health industry experts.

Japan’s policy on testing 100% of cattle for B.S.E. – regardless of age – has been ineffective, Dr. Kihm told the audience, which included more than 80 Japanese government officials, meat industry representatives, media and opinion leaders, including Takeshi Mikami, chairperson of the Food Safety Commission for the Government of Japan. The youngest documented case of B.S.E. to his knowledge was 34 months of age.

Removing specified risk materials and the implementation of bans on the use of meat and bone meal for livestock feed, however, have dramatically reduced the incidence of B.S.E. and the risk of vC.J.D. (variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease), Dr. Kihm added.

Although there is a risk of B.S.E. for Japanese consumers, it has not been accurately reported, Dr. Ariji charged. "The risk of dying from B.S.E. is one of the smallest, least measurable food-related risks," he added.

The U.S. International Trade Commission recently issued a report detailing that since B.S.E. was discovered in the United States in December 2003, the U.S. beef industry has lost an estimated $11 billion in missed sales and opportunities and increased costs, said Philip Seng, U.S.M.E.F. president and chief executive officer.

Japan’s insistence on 100% testing for all cattle has been a costly error, acknowledged a panel of distinguished Japanese media and health industry experts — but this policy is difficult to reverse because it has been portrayed to Japanese consumers as an essential safety step. Dr. Ariji stated that Japan has wasted 1 trillion yen (roughly $10 billion) on animal testing that has not saved any lives.

"The political atmosphere at the time [B.S.E. was first reported in Japan] would not allow limited testing," said Dr. Yoshihiro Ozawa, an advisor to the international world organization for animal health and a panelist. "I regret that scientists didn’t make the point that cattle that were not tested were still safe. It is important to say that the 100% testing is not necessary, otherwise what is not correct will still be done."



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