Australia today confirmed the suspension of importation of Japanese beef and beef products following the formal confirmation of a case of BSE (mad cow disease) in a Japanese dairy cow. This action is being taken by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS).

Professor Dick Smallwood, Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer, said that the risks from Japanese beef were extremely low but the suspension was in line with Australia’ s tough restrictions on beef from countries affected by BSE.

‘Japanese beef only makes up 0.2% of all beef and beef product imports into Australia,’ Professor Smallwood said, ‘ This measure is purely a cautious one and consumers should not be concerned if they have consumed any Japanese beef products.’

In January 2001 Australia suspended the import of beef and beef products from 30 European countries with active cases of BSE. British beef imports were suspended in 1996.

Managing Director of ANZFA Mr Ian Lindenmayer, said ‘ I have written today to the head of AQIS confirming advice that the import of Japanese beef and beef products be suspended. This follows the receipt of information from the Japanese Government that the suspected case of BSE has been confirmed.

‘Under the new food standard and certification process, which came into force on 16 September 2001, there is now a requirement that beef products are produced from animals that are free of BSE. In order to protect public health and safety, ANZFA has now added Japan to the list of countries from which we do not import beef and beef products because of the BSE risk.

‘Also, retailers are being asked to withdraw any Japanese beef products from their shelves and ANZFA advises consumers to discard any Japanese beef products they may have in their pantries.

‘I commend the Japanese Government for their quick response to this issue and their openness in handling it. Imported Japanese food products are in high demand in Australia, as are Australian products in Japan, and both nations recognise the importance of our trading relationship. This trading relationship has been built up over many years and Japan’ s speedy response to this case of BSE continues to build on that trust,’ Mr Lindenmayer concluded.