Executive Summary: Feb. 17 USDA Report on Beef Exports to Japan

United States Department of Agriculture
Findings and Actions Report On the Beef Export Verification Program For Japan

February 17, 2006

On December 12, 2005, after nearly two years of banning the export of beef from the United States, Japan resumed beef trade with the United States. On January 20, 2006, Japan government officials discovered 3 boxes of veal with vertebral column shipped from the United States. Vertebral column is not allowed under the specific trade agreement with Japan. The United States acknowledges this was unacceptable because it did not meet the terms of our agreement with Japan, but emphasized that the product did not present a health risk to the public.

Once the United States government was made aware of this ineligible shipment, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture ordered a thorough investigation. The Office of Program Evaluation, Enforcement and Review, the office within the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) responsible for audits and evaluations, immediately began an investigation into what happened in this particular incident that allowed ineligible product to reach Japan. FSIS also partnered with the investigative branch of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to conduct its investigation. This investigation was completed on February 2, 2006. (See Section II of this Report.)

The investigation revealed this incident was the result of inadequate familiarity on the part of the exporter and USDA inspector with the specific products that were eligible for shipment to Japan. By agreement with the Government of Japan, no vertebral column is to be shipped. Vertebral column was shipped in 1 box labeled Hotel Rack and 2 boxes labeled Trimmed Loin. In addition, the investigation revealed that FSIS inspection program personnel at the establishment involved were not sufficiently aware of the AMS EV program and should not have certified/approved shipment of ineligible product for export to Japan. Because this was the first and only shipment of veal to Japan under the EV program, we are confident in our assessment that the circumstances surrounding this ineligible shipment were unique. (See Section III of this Report.)

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns initially announced 12 actions steps in response to this ineligible shipment of veal to prevent the repeat occurrence of this incident. These 12 action steps included delistment of the establishments in question that had exported ineligible veal products to Japan. Additionally, within 3 days of notification of the ineligible shipment, FSIS held interactive web-based training for its responsible inspection program personnel at all EV approved establishments. Within 4 days, USDA officials held a meeting at USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C., with Chief Executive Officers and other senior management for establishments exporting beef under EV programs to ensure industry understood critical issues for compliance with EV export requirements. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns personally addressed the group and articulated very clearly the importance of compliance with all requirements to maintain the high standard of excellence associated with the U.S. farm and food product export programs. (See Section IV of this Report.)

Following the investigation, USDA determined appropriate additional action steps to address the findings of the investigation. For example, to be certain that FSIS inspection program personnel are fully aware of specific products approved for export to each country participating in EV programs, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will maintain a list of specific products approved for export to each country on an internal web site accessible to FSIS trained inspection program personnel. Additionally, AMS will notify FSIS each time establishments are audited, listed, or delisted for EV programs. (See Section IV of this Report.)

On January 27, 2006, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture also asked that the OIG, the independent investigative arm of the USDA accountable to the American public through the U.S. Congress, perform an audit to evaluate the adequacy of USDA's coordination and control process for the beef export verification program to Japan. This investigation concluded with the completion of an OIG audit report on February 10, 2006, and is also included in this report (see Section III). The findings and corresponding USDA actions presented in this report (see Section IV) are the result of the FSIS Japan Export Investigation Report, Golden Veal Corp., and Atlantic Veal and Lamb, Inc., and OIG Assessment of USDA's Controls for the Beef Export Verification Program for Japan. The findings, facts, and actions are very similar for each investigation.

The United States places a high priority on meeting Japanese standards for imported beef. We understand the Japanese requirements. They are very clear and our system is designed to meet these requirements. As a result of our thorough investigations, we are confident that this detection of ineligible product in a single veal shipment does not indicate weakness in the overall U.S. beef processing or inspection or export systems. Through our investigations and our response to this incident, we have incorporated additional protections into the U.S. system to prevent a similar incident from occurring.