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Published reports yesterday said that 45 cows at a Japanese farm are suspected by authorities of having bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), better known as mad cow disease. The government said that the farm has been quarantined and that the cows will be destroyed, and that there was no evidence that any of the disease got into the human food supply.

The new suspected outbreak is likely to raise public sensitivities about mad cow disease among the Japanese population, and could have an impact on discussions about reopening the nation’s borders to beef imported from the US.

There are reports that at least one of the dead cows was fed meat-and-bone meal, which was banned over mad cow fears back in 2001.

Late last month, the import of US beef into Japan was suspended because animal spines were found in three boxes of frozen beef being brought into the country. That discovery reignited concerns in Japan about the possibility that BSE-tainted beef could be coming from US suppliers. The new discovery and suspension came just a month after a two-year-old ban on US beef was lifted after months of intense negotiation, on the condition that imported US beef come from cattle no older than 20 months and that spinal cords, brains and other parts blamed for spreading the human variant of mad-cow disease be removed.

Before the ban, which was implemented after the first case of BSE was discovered on US soil more than two years ago, Japan was the most lucrative market in the world for American beef, importing than $1.7 billion worth in 2003.
KC's View:
It’s a good thing that the Japanese government tests every cow – because that would seem to make it possible that no infected cows will slip through the safety net. And it certainly will make them think twice about allowing more US beef in, since we don’t test nearly as big a percentage as they do.

They must do the math, calculate the odds, and wonder.

We do.