TOKYO (AFP) – An overwhelming majority of Japanese support the decision to ban US beef imports for violating a food safety agreement and most want tighter restrictions if imports resume, a new poll revealed.
Some 87 percent backed the new ban, which was imposed only a month after US beef was allowed to return to the market, against eight percent who opposed it, said the Asahi Shimbun poll of 1,915 Japanese adults. However, people were sharply divided over the original decision to lift the embargo, with 48 percent believing it was too early against 45 percent who thought it was appropriate. Under intense pressure from its closest ally, Japan, formerly the top overseas market for US beef, in December resumed imports, which were suspended in 2003 after a mad-cow case was discovered in a herd in Washington state.
On January 20, however, Japan found that a US shipment that arrived near Tokyo contained spinal columns, which are forbidden as a precaution against mad-cow disease, and imposed a new ban.
Some 57 percent want the government to impose tougher conditions if resuming US beef imports against 33 percent who are satisfied with the current rules, the poll said.
Only three percent of people polled said Japan should ease the conditions — that slaughtered cattle be no more than 20 months old and risky body parts be removed.
The Asahi conducted the telephone poll over the weekend, before a new controversy over beef imports emerged in parliament.
The opposition called Monday on farm minister Shoichi Nakagawa to resign after he admitted he never sent teams to the United States to inspect beef as he promised.