English Newsletter

Food Safety Citizens' Watch
English Newsletter

Issue # 3, BSE: Problems with the Food Safety Commission Report 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.
Problems with the Food Safety Commission Report: Citizens Act to Protest

Problems with the Food Safety Commission Report:
Citizens Act to Protest
The Prion Expert Committee, a Japanese government expert panel, released its report on October 31, 2005 and issued a risk evaluation of U.S. beef. They concluded that the difference in BSE infection risk between beef and internal organs from Japanese and U.S. cattle is very small, if the cattle are 20 months old or younger, and if strict precautions are taken. This averts the eye from the actual situation in North America, where the danger of BSE is high. Thus to resume the import of U.S. beef is premature, and we concluded that the report was irresponsible.

On October 27, just before the Prion Expert Committee adopted its report, our different member organizations joined farmer groups and labour unions for a meeting under the slogan "We don't need U.S. beef". We staged a joint demonstration outside the Japanese Parliament, and adopted a protest declaration.

In the declaration, we consider that the lack of regulation in the U.S. regarding the removal and handling of specified risk material is a problem, and we critizise the Food Safety Commissionf hypothesis that the regulations are adhered to. They state that for cattle 20 months old or younger the risk is very low, but scientists with a conscience on the Commission's panel know that it is impossible to evaluate the age of a slaughtered cow. We urged the government to not be in a hurry to reopen Japan's market to U.S. beef. We also critizised the U.S. attitude to apply unique standards to gain acceptance on the Japanese market, as such attitude will not completely eliminate BSE from the world.

After that, we handed over our list of requests, opposing the import of beef produced in North America to officers at the Food Safety Commission, the Ministry of Health Welfare and Labour, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. We also visited officials at the U.S. embassy in Tokyo and gave them our letter of opposition, explaining that Japan's consumers do not want U.S. beef to enter Japan. In addition, we handed out leaflets to people on the streets of Yurakucho, central Tokyo.

In any case, it seems certain that the government will ignore our concerns, and decide to resume the import of beef produced in North America. At the Food Safety Commission meeting on November 2, the issue of U.S. beef was on the agenda, and right away the report from the Prion Expert Committee was accepted. It was also decided that there would be a 4 week opportunity for the public to make comments. In spite of the concerns of Japan's consumers, it probably means that the import ban will soon be lifted. It seems that they neglect to protect consumers from unsafe food. In fact, we want to remind our government that they do not have to allow the U.S. to dictate the food safety policies of Japan.

Yamaura Yasuaki

(Copyright FSCW August 2005)

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
Food Safety Citizens' Watch Newsletter