Lambert Opens March Beef Expert Talks in Tokyo

Dr. Charles Lambert
Acting Under Secretary of Agriculture
for Marketing and Regulatory Programs

Mita Kaigisho
Tokyo, Japan

March 28, 2006

ACTING UNDER SECRETARY LAMBERT: Thank you. We very much appreciate the fact that you received this delegation. We are here because we absolutely believe that US beef is safe. We have taken a number of interlocking measures to ensure the safety of US beef. In order to access the Japanese market, we agreed to additional measures, and we take our obligation to perform those measures very, very seriously. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, we did have two plants that chose not to abide by the agreement that we had made with Japan. The secretary has apologized for that event, and we have implemented a number of additional measures to assure that the obligations that we made to Japan are carried out.

The secretary promised a thorough investigation into the actions that took place that resulted in the January 20th suspension of trade, and in response to those investigations, we issued a 575-page report that lays out all of the actions surrounding that unfortunate incident. The investigation was conducted not only by our internal people at the Food Safety Inspection Service at USDA, but also an additional audit and investigation was conducted by the Office of the Inspector General, which provides a third-party, unbiased review of these actions. So consistent with the commitments made by the secretary, we have issued the report, we have provided written answers to follow-up questions, and now we are here today with technical experts to answer any unanswered questions, with an eye to lifting the suspension and resuming trade following whatever review of plants are necessary to lead to the resumption of trade.

My name is Chuck Lambert. Ifm the Acting Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs at the US Department of Agriculture. On my left, Jim Riva, who is with the Agricultural Marketing Service and heads up the export verification programs that we have in place. On Jimfs left, Rob Tanaka, who is with APHIS, or the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service at USDA. On my right, Bill James, with the Food Safety Inspection Service at USDA. And on Billfs right, Dan Berman, whofs here in the embassy in Tokyo with the Foreign Agricultural Service. And we have a host of supporting cast. So we are here to answer your questions. We expect to be very thorough, very forthcoming, very transparent, and we look forward to beginning the process and having a successful conclusion to these two days of talks. Thank you very much.