10,000 local cattle to be examined for mad cow disease

10,000 local cattle to be examined for mad cow disease

August 28, 2001 Japan Economic Newswire

The health ministry has decided to thoroughly examine about 10,000 domestic cattle for mad cow disease starting next fiscal year, ministry officials said Tuesday.

Officials with the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said the latest measure aims to strengthen efforts to curb the disease. The ministry is hoping to secure about 370 million yen in next fiscal year's budget for this purpose. The request for the appropriations was made public Tuesday.

In February, Japan started to ban the importation of beef and processed products from 18 countries including those in the European Union (EU) to prevent mad cow disease from entering the country.

Although there have been no confirmed reports of mad cow disease in Japan, the ministry plans to use state-of-the-art technology to examine its cattle as well and ensure their safety, according to the officials.

Currently, the health ministry and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries are separately examining cattle that have exhibited neurological symptoms such as walking abnormalities at such places as farms and slaughterhouses.

However, their research capacities are limited, as both ministries each have an inspection facility at only one location.

The new targets will cover about 10,000 cows which are presumed to have movement disorders or some kind of neurological symptom. The cows are part of the estimated 1.3 million domestic cattle that are slaughtered yearly in the country.

Nerve cells obtained from the cows will be examined to see if there are any abnormalities in the protein called prion, which is thought to be the cause of mad cow disease, the officials said.

The ministry will also conduct inspections at meat sanitation inspection centers at 117 locations across the nation, and boost research and technology for more accurate detection and inspection, according to the officials.

Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), is suspected of causing variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), the fatal human equivalent of BSE.

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