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Tuesday, 2 October, 2001, 14:44 GMT 15:44 UK
Koizumi says BSE investigation 'sloppy'
Japanese salesperson removing beef
Several countries have banned Japanese beef exports
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has criticised an investigation into the country's first case of BSE, or mad cow disease, as "sloppy".

Bad communication and "confused responses" by officials had damaged public confidence in his government, Mr Koizumi told parliament.

Agriculture Minister Tsutomu Takebe eating beef
Ministers ate beef to boost public confidence
The Agriculture Minister, Tsutomu Takebe, has apologised to parliament, admitting that his ministry's response was grossly insufficient.

It has emerged that a dairy cow which was suspected of having BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), was destroyed and processed into meat-and-bone meal.

Infected feed is believed to have caused the spread of the disease in Europe, where about 100 people have died from its human variant, CJD (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease).

A tissue sample from the destroyed cow was sent to the UK and tested positive.

'Regrettable'

Since the government announced three weeks ago that it had discovered a dairy cow suspected of having the brain-wasting disease in Chiba, near Tokyo, the authorities have been inspecting all of Japan's 4.5 million cows.


They are mocking consumers

Hiroko Mizuhara, Consumers Union of Japan
Meanwhile several countries have banned Japanese imports and Japanese consumers have swamped health officials with inquiries.

Speaking before parliament on Tuesday, Mr Koizumi said: "It is truly regrettable that instances of insufficient communication and confused responses by officials have invited distrust in this country's administration."

Days after the cow was destroyed last month, agriculture officials admitted it had been processed into meat-and-bone meal, blaming "miscommunication" with local authorities.

On Monday Japan banned the distribution of cattle feed made from animal products but consumer groups said it was too late.

Beef dinner

On Tuesday evening Mr Koizumi pulled out of the launch of a beef-eating campaign to convince consumers that home-bred beef was safe, citing an engagement with visiting South African President Thabo Mbeki.

At the launch, ruling party MPs including the health and agriculture ministers tucked into plates of beef and drank milk but consumer groups dismissed the event as a meaningless stunt.

All the beef had been tested and cleared of mad cow disease before the meal, said event sponsor Naoto Kitamura, a member of parliament from Hokkaido.

"This kind of performance is laughable," said Hiroko Mizuhara, secretary-general of the Consumers' Union of Japan. "They are mocking consumers."

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 ON THIS STORY
Peter Hadfield, New Scientist Magazine
It was just one massive cock-up after another, plus a cover-up

CJD

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See also:

11 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Asia acts on Japanese BSE
10 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Mad cow disease spreads to Asia
11 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Singapore, S Korea ban Japanese beef
31 Aug 01 | Americas
Canada extends UK blood ban
06 Sep 01 | Glasgow 2001
Increase in vCJD cases not a 'blip'
04 Sep 01 | Glasgow 2001
BSE mistakes 'being repeated'
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