U.S. Delegation on Beef Ends Japan Visit with Briefing (Japanese Media)

Deputy Under Secretary Lambert & Delegation
BSE Wrap-Up Briefing for Japanese Media

April 27, 2005
U.S. Embassy, Tokyo


Dr. Chuck Lambert, Deputy Under Secretary, Marketing & Regulatory Programs
Mr. Barry L. Carpenter, Deputy Administrator, Livestock and Seed Program, AMS, USDA
Dr. Valerie E. Ragan, Asst. Deputy Administrator, Veterinary Services, APHIS
Dr. William James, Deputy Asst. Administrator, Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA
Dr. Stephen Sundlof, Director, Center for Veterinary Medicine, FDA
Dr. Keith Belk, Professor, Colorado State University
Mr. Patrick Clerkin, Senior Technical Advisor, FAS
Dr. Melvin N. Kramer, President, EHA Consulting Group, Inc.

MODERATOR: Good afternoon and thank you very much for coming. This is the final briefing of this delegation during their visit, and we appreciate your taking the time, and your interest in coming to hear what they have to say. Dr. Lambert will introduce himself and tell you a moment about the trip and what they think they've accomplished and why they were here, and then the delegation will introduce themselves. In the interest of time, we won't make any real long comments, and then we will be able to take as many of your questions as possible. When you do ask your questions, please keep them brief, and that way we will have an opportunity for more questions. And of course, as always, please introduce yourself and come up to one of the microphones so that the interpreters can hear your questions as well. We have exactly one hour, so I will not make further comment, but turn it over to Dr. Lambert. Thank you all for coming.

DR. LAMBERT: Thank you. I would like to thank the government of Japan and all of you for a very active three days. We've had an opportunity to present our message to a number of various related audiences, and we've talked about a number of inter-related measures that we have taken to ensure the safety of U.S. beef. And our primary message here is that U.S. beef is safe. That is true for U.S. consumers, and it is important to remember that we have taken extra measures, with the interim marketing program, to go beyond those standards to increase the confidence of Japanese consumers. I have a few additional comments, but first I would like for the team to introduce themselves. Most of you have met them at some stage this week, but we have a team of nine experts in different areas that are here to respond to additional questions that you may have. Valerie?

DR. RAGAN: Yes, good afternoon. My name is Valerie Ragan. I am the Assistant Deputy Administrator with USDA-APHIS Veterinary Services.

DR. BELK: Keith Belk. I'm a professor of animal science at Colorado State University.

DR. KRAMER: I'm Mel Kramer. I'm an infectious disease epidemiologist and president of EHA Consulting Group. DR. SUNDLOF: Good afternoon. I'm Steve Sundlof with the Food and Drug Administration, and I'll be answering questions on the feed ban.

MR. CARPENTER: Good afternoon. I'm Barry Carpenter with the Agricultural Marketing Service. I'm responsible for making sure that any beef exported to Japan meets the requirements established by Japan.

DR. JAMES: Good afternoon. I'm William James, with the Food Safety and Inspection Service. I'll be answering questions about inspection of cattle and removal of specified risk materials.

MR. CLERKIN: Good afternoon. My name is Patrick Clerkin. I'm with the Foreign Agricultural Service, and my expertise is in regulatory enforcement and international standardization.

DR. LAMBERT: Thank you. We had a very interesting session this morning. We met with a group of approximately 100 average homemakers from Japan - those who make the purchasing decisions, who prepare the meals every day for their families - and we were there to present the facts about the U.S. system and the safety measures we have in place. At the end of that session, we asked the number of consumers - those consumers who were there - who would purchase U.S. beef, and approximately 95 percent of them said they would purchase U.S. beef, given the opportunity.

It's also important to know that today, U.S. product is available in Taiwan. Consumers there are waiting in line to buy U.S. beef, and the first offerings have sold out in hours. There are Japanese news teams there covering the events, and are hearing first-hand that Taiwanese consumers are not concerned about the safety of U.S. beef and are buying it very willingly. So we are confident that we have taken the measures to ensure the safety and wholesomeness of U.S. beef, both domestically and internationally. We are confident that we can compete with other export countries in this market, given the opportunity to be here.

We know that 85 percent of Japanese tourists who visit the U.S. report in polls that they buy and enjoy U.S. beef when they're there. We know that 1.2 million Japanese consumers signed petitions asking the Japanese government to reopen the market, and we are aware that 1.5 million servings of Yoshinoya sold out within a day when that product was offered. So the rest is up to the government of Japan to open the door, to allow us to sell our product.

We spent 16 months in technical discussions and policy deliberations to present the facts and develop a program specifically for Japan, to meet the political concerns that are in Japan and that exceed the international guidelines - far exceed the international guidelines - in order to be able to open the door and begin to offer our product. I've shown this before, but this is at least a large sample of the material that we've presented over the last 16 months, through a number of technical visits and ongoing consultations with Japanese government officials.

We will host an additional verification team in the U.S., the week after next. We have that schedule together. They will visit packing plants, feed mills and some production facilities, and that will be their last opportunity - from our viewpoint - before then the Food Safety Commission begins the discussion of resuming imports.

So we are offering a special interim marketing program that takes into account the political problems of Japan. We are offering product from animals that are only 20 months of age and younger. We are removing the tissues that Japan defines as SRMs from all ages of animals. We are doing that in spite of the fact that we have banned meat and bone meal and animal imports from the European Union and other countries that have had BSE since 1989. We've had a feed ban in place since 1997. We've been surveying the herd and the high-risk population where, if we have the disease, we would expect to find it. We've been surveying the herd since 1990, and we found one imported case from Canada. And we've had an enhanced surveillance since June 1 of a year ago, where we've tested more than 330,000 high-risk animals and, to date, all of those animals have been negative.

So we've complied in good faith with the recommendations, or with the requirements and the requests of the government of Japan, and so from our viewpoint, it is now in their hands to open the door. Given the facts, and the fact that there has been no U.S.-born case of BSE; given the facts of SRM removal; given the facts, the risk assessment should be a relatively short, abbreviated process. Our product is safe, and we urge the rapid decision and the restoration of trade so that Japanese consumers can join consumers - and a growing number of consumers - worldwide who are able to purchase our product.

And with that, we would be glad to answer any questions.

MODERATOR: Okay, do we have questions? Yes? Please come to the microphones.

QUESTION: Takashi Ono with TV Asahi. You had an explanation seminar for housewives this morning - I also attended that seminar - and I interviewed some of the housewives after the seminar, and they said your explanation was too technical, so technical that they had a hard time understanding. They also said that you showed too many graphs, technical numbers and lists. So how do you feel about this reaction? If you think it's a problem, do you have any kinds of countermeasure, so that they can understand more easily?

DR. LAMBERT: I think this is the first of many efforts to continue to communicate with consumers. We were asked, in this case by the government of Japan, to bring this expert team to talk to a variety of audiences, and the consumer audience was just one of those. Once we begin to export and to market our product, we will continue an ongoing program of communication, of marketing, of reassurance. We know, once we are back in this market, that it's going to be a competitive battle to regain our market share. We have to continue to earn and gain and maintain consumer confidence, and we are very willing to do that. We will do that on their terms. This is good feedback. We will use follow-up questionnaires from the session this morning, feedback such as yours, to do message development, to make sure that we are communicating accurately and the most directly that we can with consumers, so we appreciate that information.

QUESTION: My name is Fujii with Japan Agricultural Newspaper. I have two questions. It was raised in yesterday's question: the United States and Canada are not exactly the same, and in the United States, U.S.-born cattle are not infected with BSE, and do you believe that the United States is a clean country with no BSE infection? In terms of the livestock industry, I believe the U.S. and Canada are similar, but why are there no BSE-infected cattle in the U.S., although there were some in Canada? That is my first question. Second question is: if export of U.S. beef is to be resumed under certain conditions into Japan, in the small and medium size packers in the United States, 100 percent testing desired by Japanese consumers may be carried out by small and medium size packers, at least by some of them, although basically, the position of the U.S. government is not to accept 100 percent testing. Could you elaborate on the reason for not allowing 100 percent testing?

DR. LAMBERT: The U.S. and Canada have very similar systems, in that we both remove SRMs, and that's the number-one way of ensuring consumer confidence. And we have both had a feed ban in place for about the same time. We are both doing enhanced surveillance at about the same level, so we feel that we are testing equivalent to Japan, and even though we've not found a domestic-born case, we are taking the same measures as if we had found those cases in the U.S. We're taking the same measures as Canada. So our feeling is that we are comparable. We have done the risk assessment. We are willing to - have reopened our market to some Canadian product. We have a rule in place that will open our market to additional Canadian product. So we are very willing to trade with Canada, but we are here obviously, to negotiate our position, and the reopening of the market for U.S. beef, and so we use U.S. conditions in the discussion of that process. And I would like to ask Valerie to talk again about the 100 percent testing.

DR. RAGAN: Yes, thank you. The question on 100 percent testing has come up quite a bit, and just to answer that, it's important to recognize with the testing that is conducted, a positive test means the animal is infected. A negative test, however, does not mean that the animal is negative for BSE and that is due to the lengthy time between when an animal is exposed and when the test can detect it. Therefore, we consider if we were to do 100 percent testing, our consumers would consider it a breach of faith if we were to do that, because that would give them false food-safety assurances. So therefore, we won't move into testing 100 percent since that test is not intended to be a food safety test.

DR. KRAMER: In answer to your question, do we consider the U.S. a BSE-free country, the answer is "Yes, we do." Our prevalence is zero. As has been explained, we do not have a domestic bovine that has tested positive despite looking at the high-risk animals. We have banned the meat and bone meal and, more importantly - and we cannot say it enough - the public health food safety paradigm is removal of SRMs.

QUESTION: Hayashi from Kyodo News Agency. BSE is zero in your country so I have a question. Once again I want to ask you the degree of contamination. The geographical risk assessment was given by EU and the third ranking country are now showing many cases. GBR3 was given to Japan and our government was saying that there is no case but once the survey started there was case after case. U.S. has a GBR3 so GBR3 other countries had certain experiences. If you learn lessons from other GBR3 countries, you should say that there could be cases in your country. How can you say that there is no case in U.S. if you learn lessons from other GBR3 countries?

DR. LAMBERT: We've learned that through testing and surveillance in the high-risk population. We've looked in the population where we would expect to find that disease. We developed the enhanced surveillance program at the recommendation of a team of international experts who recommended that that be the population that we look at, and to date we've tested more than 330,000 of these high-risk animals and we have found none. So based on that evidence, based on a 15 year history since 1990 of testing high-risk animals and not finding any, we can say that as of to date we have found zero animals of U.S. origin with BSE.

QUESTION: (Kyodo News Agency) Then to GBR3 - as to this evaluation of GBR3 - what is your opinion?

DR. LAMBERT: GBR3 is an internal European assessment. That assessment was done about three years ago, prior to the information from the enhanced surveillance program, prior to a number of other measures that were taken. And the U.S. did not agree with that assessment that was issued at that time. We have sent a letter to the European Union contesting those findings and explaining why we thought that they took a worst-case scenario in every event to get to that level. So, one - we didn't agree to it at the time it was presented ... we felt that it was over-cautious; and second - we have additional information since that time that has proven that, in fact, our concerns were justified and we have tested and tested and we still have not found the disease. The very important thing to remember is - all this aside - is that we have agreed, for Japan, to market product 20 months of age and younger and that we are removing SRMs as defined by Japan from all ages of animals, even though we have not a had a case, and even though we've had all these other measures in place. So in essence we have done everything that has been asked by the Japanese government, to put together a plan to address their concerns and to provide a program that supplies beef that is very consistent with product that would be offered in Japan.

QUESTION: NHK - Fujiwara is my name. United States as a country is working on this problem very positively. I fully understand your measures and efforts. So you have a system in place, but the problem is in operation of the system. Actually, out in the field is it clearly followed and observed? Within the country of the United States, there are some reports indicating that there are some suspicious compliance. So in order to ensure the compliance of this system to the government of Japan, to the consumers in Japan, how can you convince the compliance of the system?

DR. JAMES: Thank you for asking that question. We have been looking forward to the opportunity to set the record straight on that. There was a recent news broadcast on a Canadian station that reported that there were a couple of cows from back in 1997 that were suspicious for BSE, and the people who made those allegations retracted their allegations before the story ever aired. When they were aware of all the facts that the two animals were tested multiple times and that BSE had been definitively ruled out, they were satisfied that those two animals did not have BSE.

DR. LAMBERT: I think it is - from my view-point - it is disappointing that these sources have been discredited in America, their claims have been rebutted and withdrawn and we continue to hear that here and are not getting that message out, that in fact these are not credible stories and that there is no basis in fact for their continuation.

QUESTION: (NHK) About the Canadian station reporting, I do understand the point very well, but for example, GAO made a report about SRM compliance. There needs to be further evaluation or verification according to GAO, and although it may not be intentional, there may be some mistakes. There is always that risk that there may be, by coincidence, miscompliance. In such cases, how can you cope with those situations? What are the countermeasures and enforced surveillance over more than 330,000 cattle? There were three false positive cattle according to Eliza screening in Japan. False positive percentage is higher in Japan. Does this suggest that perhaps surveillance skill is not at the required level perhaps? The systems are in place, however when it comes to execution of the system, perhaps it may require some improvement.

DR. SUNDLOF: Thank you. Let me speak to the issue of the recent GAO report that was issued in the United States. The GAO was investigating the effectiveness of the feed ban and how the feed ban was enforced. As background, GAO reports are by nature designed to be critical and we are actually pleased, in the FDA, at how few problems were identified and the relatively minor nature of those problems. Now, of course, we take all such reports very seriously, and we will consider the recommendations of the GAO as we strive to ensure that the feed ban remains a very effective barrier to the spread of BSE. We have a compliance rate in the United States of greater than 99 percent, which encompasses over 35,000 actual physical investigations of feed mills, renderers, farms where cattle are raised and all of the steps in between. We are actually very proud of the compliance rate of the feed ban and we believe it is a very, very effective measure. Thank you.

DR. RAGAN: Regarding the testing procedures - the three false positives, if you want to call them that - the first test that is conducted is the Eliza test which is very, very sensitive. The test is intended to pick up anything that could possibly be BSE. All the cases that have been BSE positive are positive on that test. As a normal laboratory procedure, when you have a positive on this initial test and its followed up by the possibility of several tests. We use the immunohistochemistry test which is a gold standard recognized by the international community and we also do histopathology, which is looking at a slide under the microscope at the architecture of the brain, to see if it has those holes that you see with BSE. So all three of those tests are conducted. The screening test being a false positive is expected when you do that number of tests, as you are aware. However, we have full confidence in our laboratories, and of course our Canada case we did have confirmed in England as well, because it was positive on the subsequent test. So, as you've already heard, if we test the animals in the highest targeted population where we fully expect to find it - in any kind of test population you expect to have a few - but we have full confidence that our testing procedures ... the follow up testing procedures ... would have correctly diagnosed those animals as positive if they were indeed positive.

QUESTION: I am Arikawa with Sankei Newspaper. So far, the demand from Japan for short plate, for beef-rice, and tongue - those were demanded by Japanese market. Looking at the age of the beef and if a birth date is confirmed, then the trading practice will be different. It will be individual or whole animal trading basis, and there is 35 percent - there is domestic demand in the United States and it is impossible to purchase all of the amount in Japan, is there enough for Japan - 35 percent, short plate and tongue? You have to meet the demand of Japanese consumers which will reduce the supply for the U.S. How will you deal with this supply and demand gap? According to GOJ's analysis, maturity eight percent and birth certificate five percent - total is 13 percent. Only 13 percent will be covered or will be subject. According to your briefing, it was 35 percent. It is double the number indicated by GOJ, so how can you explain this gap? I have these two questions.

MR. CARPENTER: Thank you for that question. The U.S. beef industry is ready to market beef meeting the requirements of Japan and fulfill the market orders. We clearly believe that we have at least 35 percent of our beef that will meet the age requirements and the SRM removal requirements to fulfill the market needs. The specific cuts you mentioned are cuts that are normally destined for export and we should have no problem filling the market demand.

The differences in percentages, the eight percent figure that you mentioned is related to those animals that would qualify using physiological maturity to determine their age. They would amount to approximately eight percent of our slaughter. The remainder of the 35 percent estimate that we've provided are those with known age where we can verify through records that they do not exceed 20 months of age. Again we are confident that the U.S. beef industry can meet the demand if given the opportunity to supply beef to Japan.

QUESTION: Sorimachi from Nippon Television. Regarding the town hall meeting this morning, the participants had a certain impression, and what is your impression about the meeting, Dr. Ragan, Dr. Kramer and Dr. Belk - three people - can you talk about your impression about the town hall meeting, and are you confident that you were able to convey the message to the Japanese housewives?

DR. RAGAN: Keeping in mind the input that we already had, of course - I think when you have a broad range of audience like that, you'll have a broad range of understanding. The only way, I think, that we have to judge how it went, besides just observing the reaction of the people, obviously, is there was a survey done at the beginning of the town hall meeting - a visual survey done, where we could see what the answers were when a placard was held up. And when the question was asked at the beginning, "what percentage of Japanese consumers in that audience would purchase U.S. beef?," it looked like approximately fifty percent said that they would. Unfortunately the meeting was very short, I felt, because I think it was a good opportunity for us to discuss and answer some questions that the consumers had. Nevertheless, even though it was a relatively short discussion, at the end of that meeting a second survey was held the same way. And as Doctor Lambert indicated, when the discussion then was, or the question then was based on the information you learned here first of all, who learned - two questions that I'll report here - one was, "did you learn something new today?" Every placard that was raised indicated that the producers [sic] learned something new in that one-hour session. The second question was, "would you now buy U.S. beef if it were available?" and, as you heard earlier, approximately ninety-five percent, or at least I only saw I think five placards that said "no" out of the entire room. So based on those pre-survey and post-survey, I would say that we were at least able to provide some information to the consumers as we had hoped to do. And we also gave them the opportunity to ask us questions. So I think it was a success in that regard. As you heard earlier, we would like to do more of that if possible.

DR. BELK: I was asked to discuss production practices in the United States. I believe that the guests understood that American cattlemen and cowboys care about consumers in Japan. They produce young cattle, they apply intense management practices to ensure safety, and they produce a safe product, and I think the consumers understood that.

DR. KRAMER: I believe from my perspective that as long as the consumers understand that, number one, we Americans believe that our supply is safe; our consumers believe it. Number two, that we are actively surveilling our cattle, and we do not have BSE in our country. We are taking all the remediations necessary by the removal of SRM's and, from a human health perspective, that for the past twenty years we have been studying, looking, and identifying CJD in the human population and we have never had a case of human new variant CJD in an American citizen.

QUESTION: I am a freelance journalist, my name is Sato. I have a question about age by month. Two questions. Twenty months or younger will be exported to Japan, but according to feeding practice in the United States, I don't think there are many cattle that you are sure that it are younger than 20 months. In Japan, 21-month and 23-month, at those ages there were two BSE infected cattle, so if you do thorough testing then even among the younger cattle there may be BSE infected cattle, even in the United States.

DR. LAMBERT: Let me respond to that question. The production of cattle in the United States results in the vast majority of the steers and heifers being slaughtered between 14 and 16 months of age. So the majority of the U.S. fed beef is 20 months of age or younger. The reason I mentioned the 35 percent earlier is, not because we don't have almost total supply of twenty months of age or younger cattle, it's because we only have records in means of identifying those ages on approximately that number of the cattle. So as our system changes, as the market place opens and there is greater demand for beef and cattle of known ages, that percentage of approximately 35 percent will increase drastically to fulfill the market need. So there is no problem being able to supply beef and cattle 20 months of age or younger to the Japanese market.

The 21 and 23-month old cattle that were found here in Japan, those were negative on the international gold standard test, the IHC test and the histopath test. There is - we are waiting to see the results of the mouse assay, so there is at least some question as to the infectivity of those cattle and even the Japan Food Safety commission said that the findings on those cattle had one five-hundredth and one one-thousandth of the amount of prions that normal BSE cases in Japan have. So even in the Japanese scientific community there is some question about the scientific validity or the, and especially the infectivity of those cattle.

So, even with that circumstance in the development of the interim marketing program, we have taken that into account. We realize that those two cattle created problems for Japanese policy makers. That's the reason we agreed to develop the interim marketing program to assure that we are always shipping product from animals 20 months and younger, so that we could ship product younger than those two - the ages of those two cattle and be able to reestablish trade.

That is why we feel that we have complied with every request that has been made of us from the standpoint of product specifications and requirements. As I said before, SRM removal is the number one way of assuring food safety and we have agreed - even in those younger, even a calf a year old, even in all age cattle - we will remove tissue defined as SRMs by Japan. So regardless of age, we will remove those tissues and we will ship product from only animals 20 months of age and younger, and that is why we believe that we should be allowed to move forward in a very expedited manner to begin to ship product and allow Japanese consumers at least the opportunity to purchase the product. Ultimately they will be the judges of whether we have made our case or not. They will vote with their purchasing decisions. And all we are asking is for the opportunity to offer our product so that they can make that decision.

QUESTION: Yamakawa from Tokyo Shimbun. Dr Lambert, you said that the resumption of the trade is very important at this juncture. In your phrase, you hinted that the resumption of the cattle below the age of twenty months - you were not totally satisfied that solution. That's how I felt. Now so my question, 21 months old and 23 months of mouse assay results. I went to the lab which does the mouse assay, and I interviewed and I saw them. They were very alive, up and alive, and it will take one or one and a half years before they get the results. I was chatting with other Embassy people, they were saying that in a couple of months that they will get the results, but I think that there is a difference of viewpoint, I just want to mention that. Now, my question. In Japan there is an Aesop fable of north wind and sun. If you are reluctant, if you pressure them and then you will make him or her more guarding themselves. The other day U.S. government vis-a-vis food safety commission recommended increasing the age from 20 to 30 months. When are you going to make this request officially to the government of Japan; in what kind of modality are you going to lodge this request officially to the Japanese government?

DR. LAMBERT: The October 23, 2004 shared understanding that, where we developed, where we reached the agreement to do an interim marketing program for animals younger than 21 months, had some other components in that shared understanding, and one of those was that we would implement this interim marketing program, that we would begin to trade a product as I have described. And then, as more information became available, like the results of the enhanced surveillance program, like meeting eight years of the feed ban, like results of the mouse surveys which, last October, they were saying should be completed by the spring. That was kind of the discussion as we were going through the development of this interim marketing program. So, at the time that the program was agreed to, there was also language in that interim, or in that shared understanding, that we would begin consultations or continue consultations - U.S. government and Japanese government officials, along with OIE and the World Health Organization representatives - to expand understanding, to evaluate this new information that was coming available, with an eye towards to moving to a more internationally recognized standard or international guideline of 30 months.

So that premise was laid out in the original shared understanding of October 23. Obviously our focus to date has been on getting the interim program in place so that we can start to move product, but by the understanding of both governments there is that second phase in there, that once trade resumes we will continue and resume those discussions.

So I don't think we have a fixed timeline or a deadline when that would happen, but the intent has always been to move in that direction. That was in the initial shared understanding, and we are using that as a framework for both the interim marketing program, for other parts of that understanding that were reached at that time, and its fully our intent to continue those discussions and to work with OIE and WHO, and especially our friends on the other side of the table here at the government of Japan, to continue those discussions and try to move in that direction.

QUESTION: Akagi, from TBS-TV. This may be somewhat irrelevant, but I would like to ask this question. In the technical consultation with the government of Japan on the 25th of April, I think you have provided additional data concerning maturity, and this additional maturity data - since February, the Japanese government has been requesting such data for one and a half months, and we were also wondering why the U.S. government was not forthcoming in providing additional maturity data? Why did it take so long, honestly, according to Mr. Yamakawa, there was a fable of north wind and sun, and in this past one month and a half your behavior can be likened to north wind, and we - this is perceived in Japan as a negotiating tactic. Is this a correct understanding?

DR. LAMBERT: The issue regarding data with regard to physiological maturity, we basically - in the shared understanding, there was language in there that said we would evaluate physiological maturity, that Barry and his shop would gather data, that we would analyze that and we would use those data to determine what level of physiological maturity would be adequate to assure Japanese consumers that there were no animals over 21 months or older, that all of the animals we were shipping were 20 months and younger.

So we've gathered those data. We were here in December and met informally with a panel of Japanese experts that evaluated that data and raised some questions. We were asked to go back and to come back here again in January and present that information publicly. And so we were here, I made a public presentation of those data and our analysis. There were about 100 experts from different audiences and different representation in the audience, along with the expert panel. The results of that expert panel were that they agreed that our analysis - that A-40 would assure Japanese consumers adequately; they were receiving products from animals 20 months and younger - was correct.

The data that we have, the oldest animal in that A-40 group is 17 months of age. So there's a three-month cushion or three-month margin of safety for Japanese consumers. There are no animals 18, 19 or 20 months of age in that group.

So the expert panel agreed with us, but they did say, scientifically, we need to gather more data for verification, to confirm that our initial finding is true and we were asked to go back and gather those data. We did gather those data and at the time when it was determined that we were asked to come back and make these outreach and communication visits, at the time that we agreed to have the verification team come back to Japan, then it was determined that that was the appropriate time - the time was right to go ahead, provide that data, conclude the analysis, and verify that the A-40 was the appropriate level.

Those data do confirm that. There are no animals that are older than 17 months in either data set. We feel that we have complied with the verification and so, from our viewpoint, those technical discussions are over and we at least have a final draft of the export verification program that includes physiological maturity, that will go to the Food Safety Commission for consideration as they begin deliberations on opening the market for imports.

MODERATOR: We don't have much more time; we'll take one more question. And then I'd like to ask each of the panel members to wrap up with what thought they would like the Japanese public to remember once they've gone home.

QUESTION: Ishii from Kyodo News Agency. You said the technical discussion is over, so I want to confirm one thing. Going forward, Food Safety Commission is going to deliberate the import conditions of American beef, and they are going to have top scientists' deliberation. So we will naturally have new questions and requests for additional information. I think it naturally follows in that way. Once the new questions come and requests come, you don't respond to that? And if you don't intend to have additional consultations, how are you going to meet the requests for new information or new questions?

DR. LAMBERT: I probably misstated that. We will continue to respond to requests for information or for clarification. I think our activities the last three days have shown that we're very willing to be available and open and responsive and transparent and to provide the information that we have.

But by the same token, there is growing frustration in the U.S. Congress, in the industry, so we want to be responsive and help the process move as fast as we can, because we know, on both sides, that we can't continue this process forever. So we will be responsive, we will answer questions or clarifications. But as far as answering new issues and the issue of age verification, the issue of SRM removals - those have been decided, and when I say technical discussions are over, that's what I'm referring to.

MODERATOR: Okay, yes, one more question, and then we'll take final comments, I think.

QUESTION: I'm Fujii from Agriculture Newspaper. Two simple questions: I asked this already yesterday, 330,000 cattle were tested. I would like to know the breakdown. According to MHLW, in Japan, 4.38 million cattle were surveyed, and it also shows a breakdown of 30 month or older or commercial cattle, etc. For U.S., 330,000 - we would like to know the breakdown, and we would like the U.S. Government to publish such information. Since this is a very good opportunity, we would you to indicate the breakdown of 330,000 cattle.

And from 7:00 PM today, LDP members will visit the U.S. Embassy for consultation, that is what I hear. And if possible, who among LDP members and how many of them will be visiting U.S. Embassy?

DR. RAGAN: Regarding the 330,000 animals, we are still in the process of working through that entire enhanced surveillance effort. What we want to do is do a complete analysis at the end. That being said, our target population is 30 months of age and older. So right now, as we're gathering the data, there are still some animals we know that were sampled younger than that, but we don't have the data completely broken down yet and available, but we are working with MAFF to provide them the information that they need along those very lines. We haven't completed the whole analysis of that information. But our target population is 30 months of age and older. When we do our full analysis, those are the ones that we'll include. Even though we have some younger that were tested because of other reasons, we will still do our analysis on those 30 months of age or older.

DR. LAMBERT: With regard to government discussions, those are government-to-government and we don't disclose who or when.

MODERATOR: Did you want to do one last sweep of the panel to have each expert give their final thought on what they want the Japanese public to remember about their visit here?

DR. LAMBERT: Valerie, do you want to start?

DR. RAGAN: Let me just say that we greatly appreciate the invitation of the Japanese government to come and meet with and talk with consumers and the media and the government themselves. I think it's very valuable. Knowledge is powerful and the consumers can make, I think, the appropriate decision when they have the right information. The other point I want to make, I think, is that safe processes make safe beef. Not a significant amount of testing - the SRM removal. The processes in place are what is going to ensure the safety of the beef. Thank you very much for your attention.

DR. BELK: As always, I've enjoyed the opportunity to visit Japan. I wish we had some more free time to do some more exciting things. I want to convey to the consumers of Japan that our cattle producers do care about the Japanese consumer, just as they do care about the United States consumer. In fact, at the end of the day, we are all consumers, and so U.S. producers make a conscious, well thought-out effort to produce beef that is young and safe. Thank you.

DR. KRAMER: It's been an honor and a pleasure to be here. It's actually my first trip to Japan, and I share Dr. Belk's lamentation that some time to visit your beautiful country would be wonderful. I believe the most important thing that I can leave with the people of Japan is that not only do we, as Americans, believe our beef is safe, but we back that up with science. We are a science-based program. And that's not only in meat science and the veterinary science, but we are also utilizing public health and epidemiology, and we are looking in human health as well. And from our perspective, this product is safe. If it wasn't safe, I would not be feeding it to my family, which includes three children. And I hope if you believe that, you will believe that our product is safe and wholesome. Thank you.

DR. SUNDLOF: Thank you. I also wish to thank the Japanese for the tremendous hospitality that they've extended to us during our trip. I've been involved with the BSE program in the United States ever since 1996, when we first learned of the association between BSE and animals and the human disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. So, I can speak from experience when I say that there's been a tremendous amount of effort on the part of the United States government to erect firewalls that will prevent the entrance and the spread of BSE into the United States and therefore ensuring the safety of the food supply for our population in the United States and for all the countries to which we export.

MR. CARPENTER: I'd like to leave you with two points. One, the United States Department of Agriculture will use an internationally recognized verification program to assure Japanese consumers that only beef meeting the requirements established by the government of Japan for age and SRM removal will be exported to Japan. The second point: the U.S. beef industry is ready and able to supply safe beef to the Japanese marketplace. Thank you.

DR. JAMES: Thank you for your attention this afternoon. We would like to convey to the Japanese consumer that we take regulatory action when we find non-compliance with any food safety requirement, and we take the removal of SRMs in particular, very seriously, because SRM removal is the key to ensuring food safety. Thank you.

MR. CLERKIN: I think it's important to note that the World Animal Health Organization - the OIE - recommendations do not support testing all animals at slaughter as a food safety measure. The government of Japan, dropping the requirement for testing animals under 21 months is a good first step, and it will allow us to restart trade. But we look forward to re-examining this issue with the government of Japan, the World Health Organization and the OIE in the future, so that future progress can be made.

DR. LAMBERT: In conclusion, we very much appreciate the opportunity to communicate to a wide range of audiences. We feel that we do have a very strong and valid system, that our beef is absolutely safe. Especially, we welcome the opportunity to offer that product to Japanese consumers, and to continue to communicate with them the merits of our program and to compete to regain and maintain their purchasing decisions. So, thank you again very much and it's been a great three days. Thank you.