December 12, 2008
Beef imports from the US' Smithfield Beef Group has been suspended temporarily after uncertified beef products were found among a shipment of beef parts from the firm, Japan's agriculture and health ministries said Thursday (December 11), Kyodo News reported.
Two boxes of ox tongues weighing a total of 25.6 kilograms were among 6 tonnes of US beef products shipped by the Green Bay, Wisconsin firm and unloaded in Tokyo on November 17, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
The ox tongues lacked US government certification required by Japan's import rules and shipments from the firm have temporarily been suspended, the agriculture ministry and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare said.
This was the 11th violation of Japanese import rules involving US beef shipments since 2006, when Japan conditionally lifted the import ban it had imposed following the mad cow disease scare that hit US livestock.
Japan lifted the ban on US beef imports on condition that meat is obtained from cattle 20 months old or younger and that brain tissue and other "specified risk materials," deemed to be linked to the mad cow disease infection, are removed.
Although ox tongues aren't included in such materials, Japan requires a US government certificate verifying that they are from young cattle.
The two ministries said they have asked the US government to investigate.
Smithfield Beef Group is a unit of Smithfield Foods, Inc. (SFD).