Beef inspection team set to meet US agriculture official


WASHINGTON–An inspection group from Taiwan was scheduled to arrive in Washington Sunday to monitor beef safety in the United States after a case of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), was found in a dairy cow in California last month.

The group was scheduled to meet the following day with John Clifford, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief veterinarian, to be briefed on the details of the BSE case, a Taiwanese official told CNA.

However, the U.S. has not agreed to let the Taiwanese officials inspect the dairy farm where the infected cow was raised.

A South Korean inspection group that arrived in the U.S. for the same purpose last week was also denied entry to the farm.

Taiwan has the authority to inspect beef slaughterhouses and processing plants in the U.S. as part of an agreement that allows the lifting of a ban on imports of U.S. bone-in beef imposed in 2009.

Talks between Taiwanese inspectors and officials of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, however, have not been smooth. So far, schedules for the group’s visits to many pf the beef plants have not been set.

The group is seeking nonetheless to visit the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Iowa, as well as slaughterhouses, feed processing plants and cattle farms in Nebraska, Kansas, Texas, Utah, Colorado and California.

It also wants to inspect 35 slaughterhouses in the U.S. that make major exports to Taiwan. The inspection trip is expected to end in two weeks.

According to a 2009 protocol signed between Taiwan and the U.S., Taiwan can suspend U.S. beef imports if three to five beef processing plants in the U.S. are found to have violated the protocol.

Taiwan banned beef imports from the U.S. when the first BSE case was reported in the state of Washington in December 2003 and then re-opened its doors to imports of boneless U.S. beef from cattle under 30 months old in April 2005.

It imposed another ban in June 2005 when a second U.S. case of BSE was reported.

Imports of boneless beef from cattle under 30 months of age were resumed in 2006 and bone-in beef imports were resumed in late 2009, but Washington has been pressing for wider opening and more recently, has lobbied strongly for Taiwan to lift its ban on beef containing the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine.

On April 24, a dairy cow in California was confirmed with BSE by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It was the fourth case in the United States since 2003.

BSE is fatal to cows, while eating BES-infected meat can cause a fatal brain disease in humans known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.