Last month a cow in Hokkaido developed the symptoms of mad cow disease. The animal was slaughtered, brain tissue was examined, and these tests showed the animal had BSE. The ministry involved reported the animal had been incinerated. Further tests done in Britain confirmed BSE.
Now it turns out that the animal was in fact processed into meat and bone meal (MBE) and may have been distributed as livestock feed. MBE from BSE-endemic European countries has been imported and fed to livestock with little or no effective controls. Japan backed out of a EU study intended to assess risk when it appeared that it was possible the study was going to conclude a risk existed, due to agricultural practices and regulatory atmosphere.
I read today that the most common slaughtering/carcass processing practice in Japan today is to split the whole animal down the backbone, exposing and spreading nerve tissue which may contaminate the rest of the carcass. British scientists have concluded that this practice, which was formerly practiced at small-scale slaughterhouses, but has not been for 10-15 years, is directly responsible for at least one pocket of CJD in a small town in England.
Several interesting stories appear in today's Asahi Shimbun. Scan through the different sections for relevant headlines.
If I was a consumer of Japanese beef, I'd be worried now.