Mon Jan 23, 12:47 AM ET
Japan’s top government spokesman said on Monday there would be no resumption of U.S. beef imports without an explanation of how banned spinal material came to be found in a shipment of U.S. meat last week.
Japan, formerly the biggest market for American beef, had just last month lifted a ban on imports imposed in 2003 after a U.S. case of the brain-wasting mad cow disease.
Imports were halted again after spinal material, believed to have a higher risk of causing a fatal human form of mad cow disease, was discovered in a shipment of imported meat on Friday.
“First of all, the United States must find out the cause, then introduce measures to prevent this from happening again,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe told a news conference.
“We will make a decision based on that,” he added, when asked about the ban.
The government will also ask Japanese importers to check whether any banned material has been included among U.S. beef already imported since the ban was lifted, Abe said.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, on a visit to Japan, has repeatedly apologized for the violation of regulations.
Abe later met Zoellick and quoted him as saying in their meeting that the United States would do its best to investigate the cause of the problem and relieve Japanese consumers’ concerns over safety.
Zoellick did not specify when a report on the incident would be submitted to Japan,