Can the U.S. pork industry afford to lose $1 billion in trade export business with Japan? Of course, the answer is no.

That’s why it’s critical that your pork production system follows Japan’s Maximum Residue Limit guidelines for all animal-health products. The United States does have its own MRL guidelines, and they’ve been very effective. However they are different from the one that Japan is requiring.

“If you use animal-health products, especially in the breeding herd and finishing phase, you need to understand the MRL specifications for Japan in order to remain in that market,” says Paul Sundberg, National Pork Board’s vice president of science and technology. “If we (U.S. pork industry) don’t follow suit, and we have even one violation, we run the risk of losing that market.”

Keep in mind that pork from both finishing pigs and sows enter the food chain, so both of those production areas require monitoring. It is important to take a little extra time to understand the Japanese market's MRL specifications and how best to meet them.

To help you stay in compliance with the Japanese specifications, NPB is acting as an information source, gathering product information from animal-health companies and providing it in a database that's accessible to pork producers and veterinarians. The database is for all animal health products, not just antibiotics.

The database comes in response to a set of recommendations that the American Association of Swine Veterinarians outlined to help veterinarians and producers meet the Japanese MRL requirements. Sundberg points out that because of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's product label process, the MRL recommendations can’t be expected to be label instructions.

To shed some additional perspective on the situation, here is a portion of AASV’s position statement:

“The AASV product-withdrawal database contains only products for which the manufacturer has supplied specific Japanese MRL withdrawal information. Products without specific Japanese MRL withdrawal information are not listed.

“If specific withdrawal times for a product have not been supplied by the manufacturer, the product will not be listed in the product/withdrawal database. If a product is not listed in the database, AASV recommends not using that product during the finishing phase or in breeding animals. This includes proprietary and generic products.

“A generic product may have a different withdrawal time from its proprietary equivalent. Follow the specific product withdrawal recommendation.” 

You can access the database at www.pork.org/producers/JapanMRL.aspx. Once you’re there, go to the spot designated “click here” to view the product information. NPB will continually update the Web site as animal-health companies provide information on their products.

Once you access the site, a producer or veterinarian can enter a product’s trade name, the active ingredient or the related company’s name. From there, you will get the following information: product (trade name), active ingredient, U.S. withdrawal period, Japanese MRL and animal-health company name.

You will be able to download a printable version of the complete database, which you can search for and sort information. You also can print off individual product information that you request. All entries are time-stamped so that you know when the animal-health product information was added to the database.

Using this new database can help you reduce the risk and exposure for U.S. pork products that are exported to Japan. The thought of potentially losing a $1-billion export market should be incentive enough to spend a few minutes on the Internet learning about Japanese MRL’s.

Editor’s note: For more information about  the database or to read a full version of the American Association of Swine Veterinarian’s  position statement on Japanese MRL’s, contact Paul Sundberg, National Pork Board’s vice president of science and technology at (515)  223-2764 or e-mail PSundberg@pork.org.