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2013年4月13日 (土)

BSE対策 自治体は全頭検査を打ち切れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 13, 2013
EDITORIAL / Local govts should eliminate blanket testing of cattle for mad cow disease
BSE対策 自治体は全頭検査を打ち切れ(4月12日付・読売社説)

The inspection standard for testing domestic cattle for mad cow disease, which the central government has tasked to the local governments, are expected to be eased as early as July.

An expert panel of the Cabinet Office's Food Safety Commission approved Wednesday a draft report to raise the age limit for domestic cattle subject to testing for the disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, from the current "31 months old or older" to "more than 48 months old."

The panel concluded that the risk posed to humans of easing the inspection standard would be "negligible," based on data showing that the majority of cows in Japan and other countries confirmed to have BSE were older than 48 months.

BSE on decline worldwide

We believe the panel's conclusion is appropriate, as it is based on scientific knowledge and the latest situation regarding mad cow disease.

In Europe, where mad cow disease was once rampant, cattle younger than 72 months old are exempted from BSE test, far more relaxed than Japan's planned inspection standard. Moreover, it is being discussed with a view toward further easing the regulation.

About 1.2 million cattle are slaughtered a year for meat consumption in this country, most of which range from 20 months old to less than 40 months. When the proposed age limit for cattle is introduced, most cows will become exempt from the inspections.

Since the first case of BSE in Japan was reported in September 2001, incidence of the disease has drastically declined worldwide thanks to regulations that ban the use of ruminant feed mixed with meat-and-bone meal.

No BSE-infected cow has been found in Japan since the last, a cow born in January 2002.

An international watchdog on the incidence of BSE, the World Organization for Animal Health, is expected to designate Japan as having "negligible risk" of mad cow disease.

Under these circumstances, the nation's domestic BSE problem can be said to have almost been brought to an end.

However, a related problem is the blanket testing of beef from domestic cattle that local governments have continued to impose.

Even after the central government has gradually eased the testing criteria, prefectures, including Tokyo and Hokkaido, and other municipalities in charge of meat inspections, continue to test cattle, including young cows with no risk of BSE, at their discretion. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry still doles out about 500 million yen a year in subsidies for the tests.

Many local governments say the testing is necessary to "secure consumers' sense of safety."

However, the local governments are presumably reluctant to terminate the blanket inspections prior to other municipalities because they are concerned that the spread of unfounded fears could lead to sagging sales of locally produced beef.

Fears of negative rumors

Japan is the only country in the world that has kept blanket cattle inspections in place to mitigate the spread of BSE.

However, if such inspections continue, they could end up backfiring, leading to a misperception abroad that Japanese beef may not be safe.

It has already been shown that there is no need to stick to blanket testing of domestic cattle at the expense of precious budgetary appropriations and human resources. We believe local governments should end their blanket testing as soon as possible.

The ministry, for its part, must provide full explanations to consumers that terminating the blanket inspections poses no significant risk to human health. Subsidies the ministry has been providing for local governments to do the testing at their own judgment must also be done away with.

The central government, which in February eased import restrictions on foreign beef, should consider further easing based on the scientific risk evaluation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 12, 2013)
(2013年4月12日01時42分  読売新聞)


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