U.S. Delegation on Beef Ends Japan Visit with Media Briefing (Foreign Media)
Deputy Under Secretary Lambert & Delegation
BSE Briefing for U.S. & Third-Country 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: We'll go ahead and get started, because I know that you are busy people and that we've ... we are happy that you came to hear. This is the final briefing from the U.S. delegation visiting here this week to talk about beef, and so they will be happy to engage you on a technical level or on a consumer level, and they've been criticized for both. They've been criticized for being too technical and for being not technical enough, so you decide which level you want when you ask your question because they can go either direction. We have one hour and I apologize for being formal in this setting, but with TV cameras it helps to have a little bit of distance and that is why we are doing it this way. Dr. Lambert will introduce himself and talk about why they've been here and what they think they've accomplished and then the delegation can introduce themselves and their area of specialties, and then we can use the rest of the time to have your questions and the answers that you, on the level that you wish, for your particular audiences. And don't forget we have a lot of handouts at the back on the table so please pick those up as well. We can get you more technical data on some of the things if you want that as well. Thank you all for coming again today. Dr. Lambert, it's all yours.
DR. LAMBERT: Thank you. I am Chuck Lambert, Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs at USDA. We've had three very active days here in Japan. We've had an opportunity to present our message to a wide range of audiences, from technical to consumer to policy making and to media. Primarily, the number one message I want to deliver is that U.S. beef is safe. And we have a multiple hurdle or a number of processes in place - interrelated measures in place - to assure that beef is safe. That's true for U.S. consumers and we have taken even further steps beyond where we are in the U.S. or beyond what international standards would indicate, in order to accommodate concerns in Japan and to regain access to the Japanese market. So we feel we have met our obligations and are very willing to see this process conclude - very eager to see it conclude - so that we can resume offering U.S. beef to Japanese consumers. We have a nine-member delegation here of experts in a number of areas. I'd like for them to do self-introductions, a few more introductory comments and then we will answer the questions that you have to ask.
DR. RAGAN: Good afternoon. My name is Valerie Ragan. I'm the Assistant Deputy Administrator for USDA APHIS Veterinary Services. My areas of expertise for this particular trip are BSE surveillance and animal identification.
DR. BELK: I'm Keith Belk, I'm a professor of animal science at Colorado State University. My assignment this week was to discuss the cattle production sector of the industry as well as cattle and beef processing sectors of the industry.
DR. KRAMER: Good afternoon. I'm Mel Kramer. I'm an infectious disease epidemiologist. I am a consultant and I'm president of EHA Consulting Group.
DR. SUNDLOF: Good afternoon. I'm Steve Sundlof. I'm with the Food and Drug Administration and I'm responsible for the safety of the feed supply and the ruminant feed ban.
MR. CARPENTER: Good afternoon. I'm Barry Carpenter. I'm the Deputy Administrator for the Agricultural Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and I'm responsible for making sure that any beef exported to Japan meets the requirements established by the government of Japan.
DR. JAMES: I'm William James, with the Food Safety and Inspection Service. I am here to answer you questions about food safety and inspection, especially in regard to the removal of specified risk materials, or SRMs.
MR. CLERKIN: 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 had in a group of about a hundred average homemakers from Japan, those who purchase food and prepare meals for their families. Prior to the start of that discussion it was asked, "How many of you consume Japanese beef?" And they were able to hold up cards ... probably a fair portion - 60 or 70 percent of those - said yes. They were asked, "How many of you would consume U.S. beef?" And probably half of the audience confirmed yes. We went through presentations explaining the facts of our system, explaining the protections that we have in place, the measures that we've taken, the facts of the situation in the U.S. And at the end, they were asked that same question again, "How many of you would purchase and consume U.S. beef?" And approximately 95 percent of the office held up their cards and said yes, they would be willing to purchase a U.S. product.
In Taiwan, U.S. beef is back. That product has cleared customs. Customers are standing in line and the first offerings have sold out in hours. It is my understanding that there was some Japanese media there recording these events and talking to consumers and they are getting the confirmation there that Taiwanese consumers believe that U.S. beef is safe. We know from pollings of tourists - Japanese tourists in the U.S. - that 85 percent of those say that they have purchased and do enjoy U.S. beef when they are in the States and have the opportunity. We are aware of the 1.2 million signatures on a petition to the government of Japan to reopen the market and the one-and-a-half million servings of Yoshinoya in less than eight hours once that product was offered here last February. So we are confident that we have taken the measures to assure the safety and wholesomeness of U.S. beef. We're very confident that given the opportunity to be back in this market, we can compete with the other suppliers on quality and price and that we can regain the confidence and the reassurances of Japanese consumers. We are confident that - as we continue these outreach and communication efforts - that we can expand the number of consumers who are willing to purchase and utilize our product.
Pretty much from here, the rest is up to the government of Japan to open the door. We spent 16 months now in technical discussions. We've had ongoing policy deliberations. We've had technical teams in the U.S. We've presented reams and reams of information that I'm sure most of you have seen, and we have developed a special program to accommodate the political concerns in Japan related to those two twenty-one and twenty-three month animals, so that we can regain access to the market. That is an interim marketing program that will allow us to get in the door as we move more closely to international standards. So we are offering in that special program to only market product from animals that are twenty months of age and younger.
We have offered and have accepted the plan to remove the tissues that Japan defines as SRMs - to remove those from all ages of animals. We've not imported meat and bone meal or animals from the UK or other animals with BSE since 1989. We've banned the imports of those products from Europe - all of Europe - since 1990. We've been doing a surveillance program since 1990, and to date we've found one imported cow. We've had a ban on domestic produced ruminant meat and bone meal back to ruminants since 1997, nearly eight years now. And we've had the enhanced surveillance program for nearly a year, where we've tested more than 330,000 animals and we're testing high-risk animals - those animals, if you're going to find the disease, that would be were you expect to find it - and through all of this testing and surveillance we've never found a domestic-born case of BSE. So we are confident in the safety and the quality and the wholesomeness of U.S. beef.
We feel that we've complied in good faith with Japanese government requests for these additional marketing programs. We've complied in good faith with being forthcoming in marketing and information, and we feel that it is now time to expedite this process, to do the risk assessment and to open their market to U.S. beef. We believe that that risk assessment - given that we've had zero cases of domestic cases, given that we are removing SRMs, given that we've had the feed ban in place - that that risk assessment process can be taking place in a relatively short period of time. Our product is safe and we urge the rapid decision and the restoration of trade so that we can offer our product and so that Japanese consumers can join the growing number of consumers worldwide who are able to purchase and consume and enjoy U.S. beef. With that, we would welcome any of your questions. Thank you for the opportunity to be here.
QUESTION: Steve Herman from the Voice of America. I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about your discussions with the Japanese while you've been here. How would you characterize their reaction to your presentation, you know either the statements or the body language? Did they seem open and receptive? Did they bring up valid questions that raise new concerns? Or do you get the feeling that, at this stage, its just a political impediment rather than scientific?
DR. LAMBERT: We've had ... while the primary purpose of this delegation is outreach and communications, we did have working level meetings on the fringes with Japanese officials. Most of that is what I would call tying up loose ends ... some issues where they had some remaining questions. We had discussions ... we will - part of the process that has been agreed to - we will host a verification visit delegation from Japan that will be in the U.S. the second week in May, starting the 8th of May. So they will visit some facilities to verify that we're doing what we're saying we're doing, especially in the areas of SRM removal, especially in the area of age verification. And they also want to visit some feed manufacturing and rendering facilities. So we discussed that. Prior to coming here they had a few last-minute questions. We had responded to those in writing and so this was an expansion of the discussion in those areas. But no, I would say there are no new areas of concern from our viewpoint. I think all the ministries have reached consensus that they will move towards opening the Japanese market to U.S. beef.
There are still questions about when and how fast, but the consensus is there to move and obviously our preference is faster rather than slower. We are facing those intense pressures at home, which I'm sure that most of you are aware of - the proposed resolutions in the Senate and the House. Secretary Johanns has called for a date certain. So there are ... we are willing to continue to communicate and cooperate but we are also sending a message that, from our viewpoint, the new issues ... the technical discussions are over. We're still willing to be cooperative and communicative, but it's time to finalize this process and to get this market open.
QUESTION: Miho Yoshikawa with Reuters. I'd like to ask two questions. One is related to the question that was just asked in your meetings with Japanese government officials, was the issue of a time frame or a date for the restart of trade discussed at all and if so, in what sort of context was it discussed? My second question is about the system of traceability. Could you explain what the current U.S. system is and how that is going to change and when? Thank you.
DR. LAMBERT: There was no specific timeline discussed. Obviously, we talked about the dates of the verification visit in the U.S. Today is the final day of the comment period for the Food Safety Commission on changing their domestic policy. So, discussions - that once the Food Safety Commission issues its final report to MAFF and MHLW they will begin that process - but no absolute date certain for the end of the process. We ... the Food Safety Commission will go through some technical deliberations and they are just unable to put a definite timeline on how long that will take. So we will continue to urge all due haste and we will continue to do our part. We will move as fast as we can and we will continue to ask the Japanese government to move as fast as they can, and that's about all I can say on time and timeline. Valerie, do you want to talk about traceability and ID systems?
DR. RAGAN: Sure. There's been a little bit of misunderstanding, I think, on where we are with our national animal ID system, so I'm glad you brought that up, actually. The U.S. is right now in the process of implementing a new national animal identification system. When I say new, it's a new type of system actually replacing a number of animal identification systems that have been in place for years. The common misconception is that we have not been able to - or that we have no system to - trace animals whatsoever, where in actuality, we have been tracing animals for disease purposes for years, as part of our disease eradication programs. Brucellosis, tuberculosis - all of those systems. So, in addition to the official systems we use to do that, there are also a number of identification systems that have been implemented by purebred breeding organizations etc. So what we are doing is transitioning from the older systems that have been in place for years, and which there are a multitude of them, into a new nationally standardized ID system that will be used for all livestock: cattle, swine, sheep and goats, etc., including poultry and all of the livestock species that we may potentially have to do some tracing in for disease purposes. So, we're now in the process of starting the transitioning phase.
The system is based on premises numbering. The most important thing when you are trying to trace animals when there's been a disease outbreak is 'What's the location where those animals were' and 'What's the date that they were there when the disease was initially introduced or disclosed.' So right now, we have 45 out of 50 states currently able to register premises under the new system that's been in place, so the process is continuing very quickly.
As far as when the animals themselves will be identified, we're again converting from the multitude of old systems to the new systems. There's a new numbering system that will be used that's internationally recognized. What we're doing is grandfathering in, however, the old identification systems that have been used, so we don't require that animals be re-identified. So there will be a gradual change, a gradual implementation, a conversion from the old systems to the new systems. What I'm discussing here is the identification of animals and premises for disease outbreak purposes. There's a second part to that, and that is the ability to trace product, and that is under the Food Safety Inspection Service that Dr. James is over, and again, that system has been in place for years. We are able to trace products. Bill, do you want to say anything more?
DR. JAMES: Thank you. The ability to trace meat and poultry products in the United States has existed for many years. USDA does effectiveness checks to make sure that these recalls are conducted effectively, and happily, the safety of meat and poultry products continues to improve, and so the need for conducting product tracing has been reduced each year.
QUESTION: Richard Hanson of Data Transmission Network, which I was asked to spell out in its full name. Could you just go back to what you were doing last week for us in South Korea? The South Koreans, at least what we saw from the perspective in Tokyo, in the final statements that were made, said that they were still not ready to open up, in effect. There are some quotes that I could give you, but you were there. What is the difference between what the South Koreans are looking for and what the Japanese have been looking for? If you could just ...
DR. LAMBERT: You're correct. When we were in the region, we did have technical discussions in Korea last week. They are at a different stage in the process than we are here in Japan. We had more technical people there to address with their scientific community - both academic and regulatory government community - the more technical and scientific aspects of this issue. It was agreed there that the Koreans will send a technical team to the U.S. That likely will happen in the first week of June, to see our systems and our processes. They had a team there about a year ago now, in May a year ago, but we've had a lot of changes with the surveillance program and others since that time, so they will send a technical team to the U.S. in June. In the meantime, both sides agree that a team, or a group of consumer leaders would come to the U.S. and see for themselves some of the production and processing facilities, some of the systems that we have in place. That will be an organization-to-organization meeting; not a government-to-government, but they will come as well, and then in June, the government officials will have a chance to address any concerns that are raised by their NGO groups. So we're at a different stage. This, as you are aware, this group was much more communications and outreach, and we have finalized the technical aspects, so we're in the technical discussions with Korea. Here, we are in the more the communications-outreach mode. Our objective is to get both markets open as soon as we can.
QUESTION: And competition?
DR. LAMBERT: Competition is always good. I don't know how the two governments view each other, but we are wanting to get both of these markets open. It's a - you know, Japan was our largest beef export market prior to Dec. 23rd, about a billion-and-a-half (dollars) of exports. Korea generally was third, with Mexico second. Sometimes Korea was second, at about $800 million of exports. So both very important markets, and as I say, we are working at the pace of the negotiations to resume trade with both of those markets just as soon as we can make that happen.
QUESTION: I'm Toshi Aritake from BNA. I understand there is going to be an OIE meeting scheduled in late May or early June. At that meeting, is the U.S. planning to propose relaxing the current OIE standards? That's my first question, and the second one is: during your trip this time around, have you discussed anything about the resumption of Kobe beef to the U.S.?
DR. LAMBERT: The OIE meeting, office, is basically the international organization for animal health. Their meeting is the last week of May, I think, the 23rd through the 27th of May. There has been a proposed change in the language for the BSE chapter that was actually proposed a year ago. It's been out for discussion in the 160-some-odd members of the OIE, so it was proposed a year ago; it's been out for debate and discussion, and during the meeting in May of this year, the OIE representatives will vote as to whether to accept those proposed changes or not. So it's a process that's been in place. There are proposed changes, the review of the BSE chapter has been in place for some time, and it's also - they're also looking at the avian influenza chapter and other chapters, so it's not just about BSE, but it's the international kind of standard-setting body or guideline-setting body for animal health diseases. So that discussion will take place and the vote will take place. One of the proposals in the changes is that beef from any country, regardless of the number of cases of BSE, would be safe to trade with SRM removal or with the appropriate mitigation measures. And that is not a U.S. proposal, and in fact, it would be to the advantage of Japan.
And it's related to your second question. We are also considering reopening our market to "wagyu" or Kobe beef, and most of those animals are older than 30 months. Most of those animals will have SRMs removed. So the implementation of that guideline would give us further grounds to move forward with our regulation, if it were to be in place, and we do support that regulation. Based on the European experience, we think that the removal of SRMs is the number one way to protect human health - prions have never been identified in beef - and that that regulation is agreeable and consistent with international standards.
Regarding the resumption of "wagyu" beef, in the Oct. 23 shared understanding, where we started this process, we agreed to move towards the resumption of two-way trade, with each country moving through their individual regulatory processes. USDA has conducted the animal health risk assessment; APHIS was here in January and conducted the risk assessment. That assessment has been pretty much completed. Food Safety Inspection Service was here in January to do a second verification audit of the four plants in Japan that have been designated as potential exporters of "wagyu" beef. And it's my understanding that those audits went very well, and we're drafting the proposed rule, or the rule, that will incorporate both APHIS and FSIS findings into a rule that will be cleared and published that would resume trade, resume access for "wagyu" beef into the U.S. market. So that is in internal clearance processes, and it is moving along within our process as well.
QUESTION: Steve Herman from VOA again. You brought up the possibility of the resumption of "wagyu" into the United States, and Japan has had - what is it - 16 confirmed BSE cases? I'm wondering, is that just due to scrupulous monitoring, or is there some concern among you experts out there that there is some problem here in the food chain or something with BSE in Japan?
DR. LAMBERT: I think, you know as we look at OIE guidelines and standards, those are basically the guidelines or the blueprints by which countries can trade products around the world, and our intent has said that we will trade with countries based on science and internationally established guidelines. OIE guidelines say that first you do a risk assessment of the status of herd health in a country, and we've done that. And so, based on those guidelines, and based on what we find through those risk assessments, then we determine the conditions under which we can trade with the country. That same process we've gone through with Canada. When Canada had their first case of BSE on May 20th, it's important to remember we re-established trade with Canada within 100 days. We were importing boneless boxed beef, and that's often missed in some of this other discussion. But we did re-establish trade, and we have imported probably near record amounts of beef, if you include the fact that this is on a boneless basis, versus the equivalent basis prior to that. So we are importing with Canada. We are examining the alternative of trading with Japan and other countries as time goes along, based on international standards and international guidelines and science-based risk assessments.
QUESTION: It's about the time frame. BNA, Toshi Aritake. Some Japanese government officials indicated to me that resuming, reopening imports of U.S. beef as early as before the G8 Economic Summit, which I think is going to be held in Scotland in early- or mid-July, is a possibility. Do you, have you had any discussions about timing at all? Another question related to this is, I imagine that given that our two countries are discussing initially resuming imports of animals less than 20 months old, supply - import volume - is going to be initially limited and not 100 percent, maybe half, but what is your ballpark estimate?
DR. LAMBERT: I'll address the first question and then ask Barry to talk a little bit about the second. We have had no discussions about reopening the market prior to an event. I would say if you've had discussions along those lines, we would welcome that time line.
MR. CARPENTER: Concerning supply, we anticipate that, at this point, we probably have 35 percent of our fed-beef slaughter that we would have information adequate to verify that the age did not exceed the limitations established by the government of Japan. Our meat industry is confident they can supply the demand, and the percentage of 35 can grow very rapidly if the marketplace is open and the demand is there for beef and cattle that we have known ages. So our industry does not have any concerns about being able to meet market demand. In fact they are anxious for the opportunity.
DR. LAMBERT: We'll just clarify, and its probably just a misstatement on your part, we're only talking about re-establishing trade for beef. No animals would trade in this case, it would be beef from animals 20 months of age and younger. No livestock are being discussed in the trade mix.
QUESTION: Jimbo with Video News. One of the concerns consistently being expressed about the U.S. beef safety is the incompleteness in the feed ban and particularly the possibility of the cross-contamination resulting from the fact that the bone meal is still permitted to be given to chickens and pigs, and chicken litter is still allowed to be given to cows. What is your position about criticisms, particular criticism about this feed ban? Thank you.
DR. SUNDLOF: The feed ban in the United States has been in effect for nearly eight years now, and during that time we've gone to great lengths to ensure that there is little to no cross-contamination between feeds that are allowed to be fed to cattle and those that are allowed to be fed to other species like chickens or pigs. We've inspected over - we've had 35,000 inspections so far. That's where individuals go out to these facilities, feed mills or renderers where the meat and bone meal is produced, down on the farms, on the cattle ranches themselves, looking at all of the distribution steps in between to determine whether or not there is any cross-contamination. And we found only very, very sporadic cases, in which it was generally human error that resulted in some cross-contamination. In none of those cases did that feed ever get fed to ruminants. So we feel very confident that the feed ban is effective. Currently, we estimate greater than 99 percent of the farms that are processing or handling meat and bone meal are in compliance. We list every inspection that we do on our FDA website and you can look and find, for any establishment, whether or not they are in compliance. We continue to expand the program so that the highest-risk firms are inspected once every year, at least, or more. Any firm that is found to be out of compliance is re-inspected immediately. So that's basically how we've responded to the criticisms, and we think the feed supply is very safe.
QUESTION: (Reuters) I was at Monday's meeting and if I remember it correctly, I think Dr. Lambert, you said you didn't expect to convince all Japanese consumers of the safety of U.S. beef. Would this mean that U.S. might find it difficult to regain its previous market share even after the ban is lifted?
DR. LAMBERT: I think, given the opportunity to offer our product, we can rapidly regain confidence of, and reassure, Japanese consumers and work to regaining our market share. We know we're going to have to work to earn that. We think that we very well can compete based on quality, based on price, and we can be very competitive in the market. We know that Japanese consumers liked our product before December 23rd. We were selling a billion-and-a-half dollars worth in this market. We are confident that we can regain and reassure and address their concerns, reassure them and regain their confidence to purchase our products. We're going to have to work at it, we understand that, but we're confident that we can compete, and that we will be very competitive in the market. We just need that government decision that says you can now put your product in the marketplace and allow Japanese consumers to make their decisions.
QUESTION: Richard Hanson, DTN. Just anecdotally, last night I was served at the Foreign Correspondents Club a platter of Australian beef, ostrich and kangaroo - all of it tasted about the same. No, it tasted a little bit like beef. I believe it was two or three weeks ago that the Secretary of Agriculture proposed a larger, more spending for research in the United States on BSE, and of course, Japan has been devoting considerable resources to the question of science of BSE which nobody still seems to be able to explain what it actually is and what it does. Has there been any discussion at all of any kind of joint research or cooperation or exchanges? For the past 16 months, all we have been doing is talking about trade in beef and absent from the dialogue has been no mention of what we do with the basic problem.
DR. BELK: There is actually over a time, there has been several discussions towards that as an end result, and I think that there are several scientists in Japan, as well as the United States, that would look favorably upon collaborating and addressing some of these relatively new issues. There have been some efforts towards that direction initiated. As you know, collaboration on research efforts always is dependent on the ability of the collaborators to be awarded the funding that's necessary to pursue the objectives of the research. But I do believe that there is interest on both sides of the issue, in Japan and the United States, to mutually address some of these issues.
QUESTION: Jimbo with Video News. This maybe a kind of old story but I think it's still relevant, so I would like to ask you again. Some companies in the U.S., some small meatpackers want to test on their own expenses. I think this is still a relevant question because they may sell well if they can say this meat is tested, even after the market reopens. Why not allow them to test it? USDA has consistently said testing does not guarantee the safety of the meat, but it doesn't seem to be a good enough reason to prohibit individual companies from testing it. So if you could answer that question. Thank you.
DR. RAGAN: Yes, I think that is a good question. I wish it were an old story but it continues to come up ... I think that the key factor here is, as you say, the fact that an animal tests negative does not mean that the animal is negative, so the test cannot be used for a food safety test. When we license tests for use in the United States, we license them for specific purposes, so that if we were to just broadly apply it that would actually be outside of the scope of what the test should be used for. Our biggest concern, I think though, is that what we don't want to do is give our consumers - let me rephrase this - it would be really a breach of faith, I think, for our consumers if we were to go ahead and allow a test to be used and therefore allowing there to be false food safety assurances. We think a better approach is to educate consumers on the facts that a) the test is an animal health test that is used to detect positives and that's it. It does not guarantee the safety of the food. And b) the way that we do guarantee the safety of the food is to do the SRM removal. So we try and base our actions on science and on the appropriateness of the processes that we use, and we would just go beyond that if we tested all animals and we don't want to go in that direction.
DR. KRAMER: I'd like to add that there is also a pathophysiological reason why that would not be a good idea. If you look at how BSE evolves in a cow, we know from a lot of very good research from the United Kingdom, where they have actually fed cattle infected brains, very high infective doses, and then followed these cattle over a period of time, that the animal's first site of infection is in the intestine, in the pyers patch, in the distal ileum. Secondly, it goes to the tonsils, and then finally to the brain. Experimentally, that's about 32 months. So we sort of say 30 months, just to sort of hedge down. So if we're going to be providing cattle that are under 20 months, even if we were going to allow a test, and there's a lot of regulatory compliance and requirements, but even if someone could wave a magic wand and say "yes," it would be nothing more than a feel-good test. And as Dr. Ragan eloquently stated, we want people to feel good but we want people to be safe. And safety is through the removal of SRMs, and that is worldwide and that is something that we agree with the OIE, and its been working in Europe and we believe that that is the public health paradigm, the food safety paradigm.
MODERATOR: We'll take one or two more questions and then I'll allow the panel to sum up. Do we have other questions? No? How would you like to sum up and say what you'd like them to go away with, as a final message?
DR. LAMBERT: Do you want to go one-by-one again?
DR. LAMBERT: Let's change things up. Steve?
DR. SUNDLOF: Well, this is obviously an issue that the U.S. has been dealing with for a very long time, not just in relationship to trade. I've been involved in it since 1996, when the association was made between BSE and the disease in humans, Creutzfeldt-Jakob. So for almost 10 years now, I've been spending most of my time making sure that the firewalls to protect the United States cattle herd and the United States public from BSE have been erected and that they remain strong. And that process has been continuing for a long time now. We continue to do more and more each year to ensure the safety of the food supply, but the ultimate goal is protecting our consumers and those consumers of products that we export to other countries.
MR. CARPENTER: Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you this afternoon. I'd like to leave you with two thoughts: one is that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will use an internationally recognized verification program to assure Japanese consumers that the beef that's shipped to Japan will meet the requirements established by the government of Japan for age and for SRM removal. The second message is: the U.S. beef industry is ready and able to export safe beef to Japan, and they are anxious for the opportunity. Thank you.
DR. JAMES: We require that all plants remove SRMs from cattle so that they cannot enter the food supply. We take the removal of SRMs very seriously, because SRM removal is the key to food safety. That is the principal point that I would like to make this afternoon.
MR. CLERKIN: I think it's important to note that the OIE recommendations do not support the testing of all animals at slaughter as a food safety measure. The consideration of revisions to the BSE chapter in May will not change that. There will still be no recommendation that all animals be tested at slaughter. The government of Japan, in considering to drop the requirement for testing animals under 21 months of age is making a good first step, and that will allow us to resume trade in those younger animals. And as Dr. Lambert may have mentioned, in the shared understanding in October, it was agreed that we would continue to re-examine this issue with the government of Japan, with the World Health Organization, and the OIE, and I would hope that we would make further progress in this area.
DR. KRAMER: Well, nobody asked anything about human health, so I guess I have to tell you that we're doing a lot from a human health perspective. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been very, very arduously looking at the issue of CJD, and we have not had any cases of variant CJD in an American citizen. We had one case in a young woman from the United Kingdom who came to the United States at age 14, and a couple of years after that, she did develop variant CJD, and there is no question that the source of infection was in the United Kingdom. That is also true for Japan. They have had one case, similarly attributable to the United Kingdom. Ireland, as well as Canada. So we're very, very happy that we have surveillance. We have a National Prion Pathology Center at Case Western Reserve that is available to all pathologists, all neurologists in the United States, and we have both retrospective and prospective studies that are continuing. But what people don't understand is we started our interest in 1985, so we've been doing this in the United States for humans, for the past 20 years. Thank you.
DR. BELK: Thank you. It's a pleasure to have the opportunity to visit with you this afternoon. My role this week, of course, was to help convey differences between how beef is produced in the United States, as compared to how beef is produced in Japan. It's important that we do a good job of demonstrating for Japanese consumers what those differences are, because it helps them to understand that we do take extensive actions to make sure that our beef is safe. Our cattle are younger at the time that they are harvested. We don't pith. We don't use air-injection stunners. We make sure that we remove the SRMs, which you've heard already is the most important step that we can take, relative to food safety. And so, by virtue of all these things that we do, we have in place not just one intervention to improve the safety of the beef, but we have a system that ensures that the beef is safe. Thank you.
DR. RAGAN: I'm glad I followed Keith, because what I have to say - the message I'd like you to take home - actually ties very closely in with his. What we are trying to do is base our actions and our decisions on the best science that we have available. We want to make sure that we are open and transparent in our processes. And we want to make sure that consumers can trust what we're doing. So along those lines, what we're doing is ... I think this trip here has been very valuable, and that the education of the consumers is very important to us, to make sure that as they make decisions, that they make them based on fact, instead of some misconceptions - which is one reason why we're not going to move to the 100 percent testing, because that's not based on sound science. So I guess the take-home message, building on what Keith just said, is that as far as we're concerned, safe production practices make safe beef. Not testing. It's the safe production practices, including all those things he mentioned and the SRM removals. And that's the message that we're trying to make sure that consumers understand. Thank you again for coming.
DR. LAMBERT: In closing, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to present our case. It's been a great experience the last two or three days to communicate to Japanese public at large. We are looking forward to the visit from the team to the U.S., to see our system and to verify once again that we are doing what we say we're doing. And we have told Japanese officials that we would welcome members of the Food Safety Commission to join that group as well. We are proud of what we're doing and are very willing to show and demonstrate that those controls are in place.
The end objective of all this, though, is to reopen the market and to re-establish trade. We are convinced that we have the measures in place to assure the safety and wholesomeness of U.S. beef to U.S. consumers. We've taken additional measures beyond what we do at home, or what we do - or is recommended by the OIE by international guidelines - for the purposes of the special marketing program in Japan. And we just look forward to the day when Japanese consumers can make the decision whether or not they want to purchase our product, and they are the ones who ultimately make that decision. We just look forward for them having the opportunity to make that choice. So thank you so much for attention and challenging questions over the last two or three days, and we look forward to coming back and making our case to consumers once that market's open. Thank you.