“Testing all cattle (for BSE) was and still is the major cause of delays in trade negotiations with the U.S.,” admits Yoshiro Ozawa of Japan, honorary advisor to the World Organization for Animal Health. He spoke last month to the International Livestock Congress meeting in Houston.
When BSE first surfaced internationally, Ozawa says Japan's government assured citizens the disease didn't exist in Japan. After its discovery there in fall 2001, they tried to allay consumer concerns by testing all beef animals at harvest. In essence, they told consumers BSE-tested beef was safe to eat, and non-tested beef was suspect.
“Risk communication on BSE in Japan was misleading, the mass media tend to exaggerate BSE risks, and consumers tend to demand zero risk,” Ozawa says.
That's now the challenge of assuaging Japanese perceptions about U.S. beef or beef from any country not tested for BSE.