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Japan Halts Beef From US Plant

March 07, 2008
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According to the Associated Press, Japan''s farm ministry said recently it has halted imports of beef from U.S. meatpacker Smithfield after finding a shipment that may have failed to meet Japanese safety standards.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries suspended imports from the plant in Tolleson, Ariz., run by the Smithfield Beef Group after customs officials found 1,540 pounds of round beef in 25 boxes that had not been ordered, the ministry said in a statement.

The shipment from the Smithfield plant came with 20 tons of beef shoulder.

At the request of Japanese agricultural officials, U.S. Embassy officials looked into the case but could not confirm that the round beef had been obtained from cattle aged 20 months or younger -- a Japanese requirement for imported U.S. beef aimed at minimizing the risk of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Officials could only confirm that the meat was from cows aged 30 months or less, which violates the Japanese regulation, the ministry said.

Smithfield Foods Inc. spokesman Jerry Hostetter did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

The suspension is the second in just weeks for a Smithfield plant. Last month, Japan suspended imports from Smithfield Group''s Moyer packing factory in Pennsylvania because a shipment contained beef from cattle 21 months old.

Japan banned American beef imports in December 2003 after the first case of mad cow disease was found in the United States. The ban was eased in July 2006.

Eating meat products with infected tissue is linked to a rare, fatal illness, variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease, which has killed more than 150 people worldwide, most of them in Britain.
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