SAGA (Kyodo) The Saga Prefectural Government overlooked notification from the agriculture ministry that high-quality beef it was sending to the United Arab Emirates with a local government official last November needed to be inspected, Animal Quarantine Service officials said Tuesday.
The Saga government, which inquired on Oct. 29 about necessary procedures for taking a sample of local beef to the oil-rich Arab state, was twice informed by the service’s Kansai airport branch of the need for checks, no matter how small the amount, the officials said.
On Nov. 15, the branch again informed the Saga government in detail by phone that documents, including a certificate of safety inspection and an animal quarantine certificate, were required.
The Animal Quarantine Service, a branch of the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, said it is regrettable that the Saga government failed to appreciate the risk of spreading infectious disease overseas due to unchecked beef.
The ministry will decide soon whether to file a criminal complaint with prosecutors against the prefectural government on suspicion of violating the domestic animal infectious diseases control law, ministry sources said.
The Saga government admitted to making such an inquiry with the Animal Quarantine Service but said it had intended to inquire about the procedures for exporting beef on a commercial basis.
Prefectural officials also said they had thought no checks were required for taking beef overseas as a souvenir or a sample and they have no recollection of being told that such checks are needed even for small amounts.
An official in the Saga agriculture, forestry, fisheries and commerce department took 15 kg of beef raised in the prefecture, called Saga beef, to the United Arab Emirates and served it at a reception Nov. 26 at a hotel in Dubai.
The prefectural government has been promoting the sale of Saga beef, which is considered to be a high-quality product on par with other famous brands such as Matsusaka, Kobe and Hida beef.
The domestic animal infectious diseases control law requires beef for export to undergo inspection by animal quarantine officers in advance and that certificates of export quarantine be obtained. It sets penalties of up to three years in prison or a fine of up to ¥1 million for violators.
On Monday, Saga Gov. Yasushi Furukawa visited the agriculture ministry to apologize to minister Shigeru Ishiba for “causing extreme trouble.”
Vice agriculture minister Michio Ide, who was present, said it was regrettable such an incident occurred involving an established brand like Saga beef.
“I want (Saga) to take necessary measures to prevent a recurrence,” Ide said.
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