Japanese and U.S. officials Friday reviewed steps by Washington to improve safeguards against mad cow disease, but the Americans failed to convince the world’s largest buyer of U.S. beef to resume imports.
Japan is one of 30 nations that halted imports after a cow in Washington state tested positive last month for the brain-wasting disease also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
Before Japan resumes imports, it wants the United States to begin testing all cattle for mad cow disease or implement a similarly comprehensive safety system.
Japan, which suffered its first case of mad cow disease in 2001, tests every slaughtered cow for the illness. But U.S. agriculture officials say blanket testing would not significantly improve the safety of the U.S. beef supply.
“We think that it’s not an efficient use, effective use of resources to do massive testing of younger animals, where the disease is very unlikely to manifest itself,” said Undersecretary for Farm and Agricultural Services J.B. Penn. “We think those resources should be devoted to the higher risk population.”
Penn headed a delegation that met with Japanese officials Friday to review new U.S. safety measures introduced last month that included a ban on meat from cows unable to walk or stand on their own, and faster testing of animals at higher risk because of age or the presence of neurological problems.
A Japanese team that visited the United States and Canada earlier this month concluded that U.S. measures were still inadequate.
Washington did not propose any further changes to its safety measures during Friday’s meeting, but the two sides agreed to continue talks next month when Penn said he expected them to discuss “more concrete steps that would lead to the resumption of trade.”
His Japanese counterpart, however, said Japan was waiting for new proposals from Washington.
“It is up to the United States whether the next meeting will yield substantial negotiations toward resuming trade,” said Hiroshi Nakagawa, an Agriculture Ministry official.