Mass testing eyed for mad cow disease

Mass testing eyed for mad cow disease

August 12, 2001 The Daily Yomiuri (Tokyo)

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry plans to inspect about 10,000 domestically bred cows being processed at 198 slaughterhouses for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, next fiscal year, ministry sources said Saturday.

In addition to its restriction on imported meat, the ministry, by introducing the plan, is attempting to enhance security measures for domestic beef to prevent the spread of the disease. The ministry will include the costs in next fiscal year's budget demands.

The nation's abattoirs process about 1.3 million cows annually. The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry has conducted pathological tests on cattle that were observed to have muscle or nerve disorders. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, on the other hand, examined cows prior to processing if they showed symptoms of the disease.

No case of the disease has ever been reported in Japan, but the ministry intends to ensure the security of domestic beef, the sources said. So as not to overlook cows that could be infected, but which are still in the incubation stage, cattle that exhibit no apparent abnormality also will be tested.

The tests will be conducted at 117 meat inspection stations by checking the hindbrains of cows for an abnormally shaped protein called a prion, which causes the disease. If the protein is detected, the abattoir from which the cow was taken will be closed, as a possible measure.

The disease, which destroys the brains of infected cows, was first detected in Britain, and the disease affected imports of beef processed in European Union member states. Eating the meat of infected cows is believed to lead to the development a form of fatal dementia, known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

The revised regulations under the Food Sanitation Law, which came into force in February, ban imports of meat, internal organs and processed beef products of infected cattle. Imports from 17 European nations are totally banned, and beef imports from other countries are required to be shipped with evidence that the products are free from infection.

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