From Libby Quaid of the Associated Press:
Agriculture Department officials scrambled Friday to repair a delicate beef-trading relationship after Japan discovered a shipment containing bone that Asian countries consider at risk for mad cow disease.According to Johanns and some U.S. beef industry officials, the exported beef parts -- including part of a vertebral column -- are legal in the United States but not in Japan. Other beef industry folks, with the organization R-Calf, point out that there might be advantages to having U.S. food safety rules that are as strong as those in other industrialized countries.
Hours after Japan halted American beef imports, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns dispatched inspectors to Japan and sent extra inspectors to plants that sell meat to Japan. He also ordered unannounced inspections.
The government barred Brooklyn-based Atlantic Veal & Lamb, the plant that sent the shipment, from selling meat to Japan. Johanns said he would take action against the department inspector who cleared the shipment. The inspector should have noticed the problem on plant documents, Johanns said.
"This just simply should not have happened," Johanns said during a news conference at department headquarters in Washington.
United Stockgrowers of America Chief Executive Bill Bullard said of Japan's action to halt imports of U.S. beef: "We are disappointed. After having the border closed for two years, it should have been clear to the industry that we needed to maintain strict enforcement" of health safety rules. "But this is not the first time we've had a lapse in enforcement of BSE rules. In August, we had a failure when an over 30-month animal from Canada came into this country. This validates the concerns R-CALF has raised in its litigation that we need stricter measures to maintain the highest level of consumer confidence, both domestic and abroad," Bullard said Friday on the sidelines of the group's conference in Denver.