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Japan: Public Should Have Say

17 May 2007

JAPAN - In its recent interim report on the two domestically raised cows that were diagnosed with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in 2003, the health ministry's research team said it could not confirm the infectiousness of the two cows--23 months old and 21 months old--through animal experiments.

Blanket testing of domestic cattle started in 2001 after a BSE-infected cow was found for the first time in Japan. The range of inspection has been narrowed to those that are older than 21 months, but effective blanket testing continues.

So far, 32 head of cattle have been diagnosed with BSE, and most of them were aged 30 months or older. But the 2003 discovery of BSE in the 23-month-old and 21-month-old cows shocked experts and other concerned parties.

BSE, or mad cow disease, is caused by abnormal prions as they propagate gradually over a period of years in the brain of an infected cow. The amount of accumulated abnormal prions is small in the case of young cows, causing little chance for those who eat the meat of young cows to develop a variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Therefore, cows aged 30 months or older are subject to BSE testing under international standards.

In past negotiations with the United States over beef imports, Japan consistently demanded that imported beef come from cows aged 20 months or younger. This was because of concerns over the infectiousness of the young domestic cows that were found to have BSE.

For this reason, the research team examined the infectiousness by injecting liquid extracted from the brains of the two cows into those of mice, but could not confirm the rate of infection after about 2-1/2 years of observation.

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Source: The Daily Yomiuri


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