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Issue # 5, Opposition Statement: "We oppose the decision to reopen the Japanese market to beef imports from the United States and Canada" December 2005

Food Safety Citizens' Watch was established in April 2003 as a network of experts to monitor developments and make proposals to the government regarding food safety issues from the citizen's point of view.
December 26, 2005

To Mr. Shoichi Nakagawa, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
To Mr. Jiro Kawasaki, Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare
Opposition Statement: "We oppose the decision to reopen the Japanese market to beef imports from the United States and Canada"
On December 12, 2005, based on the December 8 reply from the Food Safety Commission, MAFF and MHLW decided to reopen the Japanese market to imports of beef and offal from cows raised in the United States and Canada.

This decision shows that MAFF and MHLW are not taking their roles as risk managers seriously, but only conveniently chosing to simply accept the reply from the Food Safety Commission. Consumers are desiring safe food, but this demand is neglected, and the Japanese government is just accepting the strong request from the U.S. Only meetings to provide explanations were set up, and there were no opportunity for risk communication with consumers. We consider this as an extremely political measure. As explained below, this decision was based on the policy to appease the U.S. government and U.S. meat industry, rather than a proper food safety policy. We strongly ask the two ministries to withdraw their decision to reopen the Japanese market to beef imports from the U.S. and Canada. We ask you to reply to the following questions before January 10, 2006.
Questions
1. We note that the December 8, 2005 reply from Japan's Food Safety Commission did not confirm the safety of beef from cows raised in the United States or Canada. The report points out that it is necessary to be more strict with regards BSE countermeasures. We cannot accept such reply, that has no scientific basis. If MAFF and MHLW insist that this report has a strong scientific reasoning, then please point this out to us.
2. The report states that it is the responsibility of Japan's two ministries to ensure the feasibility of the North American BSE countermeasures. However, at the risk communication meetings organized from December 15, 2005, the two Japanese ministries kept stating that they will "demand that the U.S. and Canadian governments implement the countermeasures", thus abandoning their own responsibility.
3. The December 8, 2005 report states that it is important to establish and confirm that both the "hard" and "soft" parts of the BSE countermeasures should be confirmed properly. This includes the visual inspection to determine the age of the carcass, and to determine that SRM (Specified Risk Material) are properly removed. If the countermeasure program is not properly implemented, we cannot expect that the evaluation result is reliable. The Japanese market should not be allowed to be reopened without properly enforced "hard" and "soft" countermeasures. We would like know the details from the visits that Japanese experts have made to the U.S. to inspect the U.S. government's BSE countermeasures at beef production of meat companies, and redering factories, as well as the transport situation. We also want to know the details about what checks are made at the places where Japan accepts imported meat, such as airports and harbours. Please publish the details about such checks.
4. There have been cases in the past where imported beef was fraudulently mislabeled as "domestically prodcued". Furthermore, in the processed food industry, restaurants, school lunch, and cafeterias were food is provided, U.S. and Canadian beef may be used, and consumers will not be given sufficient right to chose if they want to consume such imported beef or not. In order to avoid confusion and concern with regards to the supply of beef, we demand strict production labelling should be made mandatory. We ask for your opinion about this demand.
5. Please explain how import inspections were conducted at the first import of beef by Marudai Foods at Narita Airport on December 16, 2005, and provide details about the inspections performed in the U.S. before that.
Signed:
Michiko Kamiyama, Representative of Japan's Food Safety Citizen's Watch
Yoko Tomiyama, Chairperson, Consumers Union of Japan

Contact:
Yasuaki Yamaura, Consumers Union of Japan
(Copyright FSCW August 2005)

Address:
Food Safety Citizens' Watch
c/o Consumers Union of Japan
Nikken Bldg.
75 Waseda-machi, Shinjuku-ku
Tokyo 162-0042, Japan
URL: http://www1.jca.org/foodsafety
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