Japanese farm minister Tsutomu Takebe reassured consumers earlier today [Tuesday] that a ban on the distribution of 13,000 tons of beef from cattle culled before nationwide testing for BSE began, on 18 October, will remain in place.

Takebe told a news conference that the government “will never authorize distribution of this beef” and that it would be disposed of.

During the same conference, Takebe pledged to investigate recent news reports in the Nihon Keizai Shimbun that in 1991, a ministry official told a researcher from Nihon University not to repeat his warnings to farmers that they should not import cattle suspected of being infected with a disease from US farmers in Chicago, where an outbreak of scrapie had been reported in sheep. Scrapie is a similar disease to BSE and at the time sheep carcasses were turned into meat and bone meal (MBM) for cattle food.

Takebe insisted: “Although the incident concerns an event of 10 years ago, the ministry takes it seriously and will check the truthfulness of the allegations.”