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US-Style Mad Cow Testing Would Have Missed 9 of 20 Japanese Mad Cow Cases

Posted on Sat, Jul. 16, 2005

Nine of 20 cows found to have mad-cow disease in Japan would have been sent to market under U.S. testing methods because the cattle looked healthy.

Japan questons U.S. beef safety By Mari Yamaguchi The Associated Press

TOKYO - Japanese food safety regulators are questioning the safety of U.S. beef after a Ministry of Agriculture study showed that nearly half of the 20 mad-cow cases found in Japan would have passed unnoticed under U.S. testing methods, officials said Friday.

Scientists on a Food Safety Commission panel have called for more details on a second case of confirmed mad-cow disease in the United States, a move that could delay a decision to resume American beef imports, which had been expected in late August, officials said.

Ministry spokesman Hiroyuki Kamakawa said the panel wants to assess the extent of mad-cow infections in the United States to calculate the risk of excluding healthy-looking cows from testing. Japan tests all cows before slaughter, but the United States only tests those that display signs of the disease.

Last month, Washington confirmed that a 12-year-old cow born in Texas had tested positive for mad-cow disease. It was the country's second case of the brain-wasting disease found in cattle but the first in a U.S.-born cow. The first case was traced to a dairy cow imported from Canada.

The Japanese panel members are also concerned because the cow initially tested negative before the disease was confirmed by a British laboratory.

The panel's assessment on resuming U.S. beef imports depends on how soon Tokyo can obtain the requested information from Washington, a Food Safety Commission official said, hinting at a possible delay in the panel's decision.