As the calendar flips from May to June, Japan’s new requirements on maximum residue limits for veterinary drugs used in food-producing animals goes into effect. That is unless U.S. industry coalition can get the Japanese to delay the date.

This means that any U.S. producer selling pork to packers that export to Japan will have to satisfy the new requirements.

“By following U.S. withdrawal periods, most producers will satisfy Japan’s new requirements,” says Steve Larsen, National Pork Board’s pork-safety director. “However, producers should review the animal-health compounds they’re using and visit with their veterinarian to make sure the products don’t have extended withdrawal periods.”

“This is not a food-safety issue for the U.S. consumer,” notes Larsen.  “These are standards to satisfy the Japanese export market, a very important market for our pork.”

 While U.S. producers already have to meet U.S. Food and Drug Administration requirements, Japan’s new standards are based on Codex Alimentarius. Those are a series of international food-safety and consumer-protection standards set by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization.  

Following product-label guidelines that are already in place will satisfy most of the new Japanese standards. However, it’s worth reviewing a few steps to determine whether you might need to make some changes:

1. Talk to your packer to find out if your hogs are being channeled to the Japanese a export market, and are therefore affected.   

2. Visit NPB’s Web site to determine if any medications used in your production system have withdrawal periods that are affected. You can find this information at: http://www.pork.org/producers/JapanMRL.aspx. The site will be updated as information from animal-health companies is received.

3. Contact your veterinarian to determine if your herd-health program is affected. Japan’s residue-monitoring protocols require testing to be done at or near identified injection sites. “Work with your veterinarian on product selection and the correct use of injectable products in the finishing-hog phase, and to develop appropriate treatment protocols,” says Larsen.

4. It’s also wise to review the Pork Quality Assurance and the Take Care – Use Antibiotics Responsibly programs. Those materials are available through www.pork.org or by calling (800) 456-7675. 

 “Japan is a valuable export market for U.S. pork producers, representing 45 percent of all pork exports at a value of $1.070 billion. It is important that producers take this issue seriously,” says Phil Seng, chief executive officer of the United States Meat Export Federation.  

 “The United States cannot afford to lose this essential market. Unfortunately, just one out-of-compliance animal could put it at risk,” he cautions.