The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service today announced that it is amending regulations governing the importation of meat and other edible animal products to reestablish, under certain conditions, the importation of whole cuts of boneless beef from Japan. This final rule will continue to safeguard the United States against the introduction of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
In September 2001, APHIS prohibited the importation of ruminants and most ruminant products from Japan following the confirmation of BSE in a native-born cow in that country. Recently, Japan requested that APHIS consider resuming the importation of beef from Japan to the United States.
In a Federal Register notice published Aug. 18, 2005, APHIS proposed to amend the import regulations by allowing the importation of whole cuts of boneless beef from Japan under specified conditions. The regulations will be amended under this final rule.
After conducting a thorough risk analysis, APHIS has determined that such beef can be safely imported to the United States from Japan under the following conditions:
The beef is prepared in an establishment that is eligible to have its products imported to the United States under the Federal Meat Inspection Act. This includes provisions that specified-risk materials (SRMs) must be removed under appropriate conditions and it also prohibits the use of air-injection stunning devices.
The beef must be derived from cattle that are not subjected to a pithing process at slaughter.
The mitigation measures must be certified on an original certificate issued by an authorized veterinary official of the Japanese government.
Research has demonstrated that only a limited number of tissues from cattle may harbor infectious levels of BSE. These are primarily the central nervous system tissues, such as the brain and spinal cord. Requirements for the removal of these tissues, commonly referred to as SRMs, would prevent them from entering the human food supply and are an important safeguard to protect public health. Research has not demonstrated that bovine muscle meat, which would be the sole product eligible for importation under the final rule, harbors BSE. The import conditions in the final rule including the removal of SRMs, are based on scientific research and in combination allow for the safe importation of whole cuts of boneless beef from Japan.
This final rule is scheduled for publication in the Dec. 12, 2005 Federal Register and becomes effective at 11:30 a.m. EST on Dec. 12, 2005.