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Japan to end mandatory testing for mad cow disease

JIJI, Staff Report

Mandatory testing of all cattle aged over 48 months for bovine spongiform encephalopathy will cease next year, officials said Tuesday.

The Cabinet Office’s Food Safety Commission on Tuesday received a report from a team of experts that says there would be negligible impact on public health if BSE testing were to cease.

The commission will express a similar opinion to the health ministry as early as August. The ministry will then aim to scrap ordinances relating to testing, the officials said.

However, testing will continue for any cattle of 24 months and older that are seen to move oddly.

Japan diagnosed its first case of BSE, or mad cow disease, in September 2001. The following month, it banned the use of meat-and-bone meal and introduced blanket testing for all cattle regardless of age.

The measures worked, bringing down national BSE infection rates significantly. The extent of BSE testing has been shrunk three times.

Of the more than 1.6 million cows tested since 2001, 36 were found to have the disease. No cow has tested positive in Japan since January 2009.

Since July 2013, only cattle aged more than 48 months have been required to be tested. This category accounts for 20 percent of cows slaughtered for human consumption in Japan.