Easing mad cow testing draws criticism


Consumers and producers have criticized a government plan to loosen testing for mad cow disease, while university students have expressed concern over Japan succumbing to the United States in giving up its blanket testing.

The criticism came during a meeting last week in Sapporo held by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry to explain the government’s plan to 120 representatives of consumer groups and beef producers.

One producer said consumers will not buy beef that has not been tested and urged the government to continue blanket testing until the cause of the mad cow outbreak in Japan is discovered. The nation’s first case of the brain-wasting disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, emerged in September 2001.

A consumer group representative expressed concern about beef sales if the practice of labeling it to identify whether it has been inspected is discontinued, and argued that the government was holding the meeting to pave the way for resuming imports of American beef.