Most prefectural governments plan to continue testing all cattle for mad cow disease, despite the national government’s plan to exclude cows aged up to 20 months possibly by next spring.

According to a Kyodo News survey, 25 of the 47 prefectural governments said they will continue blanket testing to calm consumer concerns, and 21 prefectural governments said they are undecided but are likely to follow suit. Fukushima Prefecture, which has no slaughterhouses, was excluded from the survey.

The findings indicate Japan will in effect continue to test all cattle for the disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, and that the government’s attempt to review the existing system has gained little ground.

The survey was conducted Friday after the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry proposed revised measures on mad cow to the Cabinet Office’s Food Safety Commission for its approval.

The revised measures include regular checking of the complete removal of brains, spinal cords and other cow parts prone to the brain-wasting illness, tougher controls on cow feed, and promotion of related research.

But they also include a plan to exclude young cows from testing on the grounds the existing testing method has difficulty detecting the disease.

The commission is expected to approve the revised measures and the government will likely implement them in the spring.

Despite the national government’s intentions, none of the prefectures surveyed said they would ease blanket testing.

Many prefectures said they will continue the testing “for the safety for consumers,” citing persistent public concern.

“If different municipalities adopt different standards, it will generate further chaos among the public,” Okayama Prefecture said in its survey response.

Many prefectures appeared concerned about generating fear by adopting a double standard for cattle older than 20 months.

Among the undecided, Aichi and other prefectures said they are unsure whether the national government would offer help in determining whether a cow really has the disease should they find a suspected case in a preliminary test.

Many undecided prefectures are likely to continue blanket testing once their questions about the national government’s support are answered.

U.S. talks next week

Japan and the United States will hold high-level talks aimed at lifting Japan’s ban on U.S. beef imports this week in Tokyo, according to government sources.

The government will explain to the United States its proposed review of the policy of testing all cattle for mad cow disease, which could pave the way for resumption of U.S. imports by spring, the sources said.

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