The Japanese government may have known about the presence of BSE in the national herd as far back as 1987, fourteen years before the first case was officially confirmed in a five-year-old Holstein dairy cow on a Chiba farm on 10 September this year.

A research paper authored by scientists from the Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine in Hokkaido, northern Japan, and presented at a veterinary conference on 1-4 April, 1989, revealed: "Recently, Britain has reported that it has discovered cows suffering from a scrapie-like disease called bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

"We, the presenters, announce that we have found two cows that histologically and pathologically may have suffered from a similar disease as scrapie found in sheep."

The Agence France Presse argues that this shows that the Japanese government was made aware in April 1989 of two incidence of BSE in the national herd in 1987.