The source of the mad cow disease outbreak that has thus far claimed five animals remains a mystery and must be determined through further investigation, the farm ministry said Tuesday in a report that sums up its policy responses since the discovery of the first case last September.

The report was released by the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry on the first anniversary of the Sept. 10 discovery of a Holstein cow infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy at a farm in Chiba Prefecture.

The report calls on the government to establish a testing regime to investigate the cause of death in cows with symptoms similar to those of BSE-infected cows.

Upon releasing the report, agriculture minister Tsutomu Takebe said in a statement, “The government has caused public distrust as a result of confusion in the administration’s responses.

“The distrust has fueled public anxieties about beef consumption.”

He also said that various beef-mislabeling frauds perpetrated by meat processors such as Nippon Meat Packers Inc. have ravaged public trust in the meat industry and government administration.

The ministry “is determined to continue to handle the situation with a sense of urgency to restore consumers’ confidence,” Takebe said.

In summing up the responses taken so far, the report states that the government spent 147.8 billion yen in fiscal 2001 alone in order to help farmers and improve the meat-processing system.

It notes that the government set aside an additional 206.7 billion yen in fiscal 2002 to fund additional measures to counter the disease and related damage.

The report says the government will in September set up a panel of experts tasked with formulating measures to deal with murky practices in the meat industry and improve the responses of government administrators to similar problems.

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