Mad cow scare moves 1,765 schools to drop beef from meals

September 21, 2001 Japan Economic Newswire
The outbreak of mad cow disease in Japan, confirmed by British veterinary experts, has led at least 1,765 public schools in 14 prefectures to remove beef from their lunch menus, according to a Kyodo News survey released Saturday.

Education boards in 107 cities, towns and villages in three other prefectures are planning to drop beef from their school lunches amid rising fears of infection after the government announced on Sept. 10 that one dairy cow in Chiba Prefecture was suspected of having been infected.

While education authorities are trying to contain the damage created by rumors about the disease -- the first incidence reported outside Europe, the agriculture ministry's announcement early Saturday that British neuro-pathologists have confirmed the infection will likely accelerate the momentum to change school lunch menus. The Kyodo survey shows school authorities in Ibaraki have been most active in changing their school menus, reporting that the measure had been taken at 421 elementary schools and 167 junior high schools.

Metropolitan Tokyo came next, with 338 elementary schools and 153 junior high schools, followed by Tokushima with 100 elementary schools and 32 junior high schools.

In Yamanashi, local education boards have reported that beef has been removed from the menus in all but one of the 108 public elementary and junior high schools in seven cities.

Examples of substitutions made by the municipal education board in Kainan, Wakayama Prefecture include substituting jelly for boiled sausages, pork for beef in Japanese 'oden' stews, and serving noodles in broth instead of spaghetti with meat sauce.

The education board in Itami, Hyogo Prefecture said it had replaced beef with pork in a curry noodle dish and so far had experience no difficulty in finding substitutes.

According to the Kyodo poll, the reasons cited for dropping beef include, in the case of one education board in Ibaraki, 'don't use anything that is in doubt,' and, in the words of a Shizuoka Prefecture education board, 'minimize any danger.'

However, many local education boards in southern Japan -- notably those in Kyushu and Okinawa -- say they are not particularly concerned about eating beef.

'The agriculture ministry has declared beef and dairy goods are safe,' the Hiroshima municipal education board says.

Elsewhere, some education boards say they have yet to investigate the situation, while others declined to answer the Kyodo survey, citing fear of 'misunderstanding' and overreacting to the mad cow scare.

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