WASHINGTON - U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said that the department officials are working on answers to the questions posed by Japan over the exports of banned cattle parts to that country. Johanns said that the information would soon be intimated to the Japanese officials.
"We have received the questions from Japan about the report that we submitted a few weeks ago," Johanns told reporters. "I did not see anything in those questions that was terribly surprising. We should have that information back to Japan maybe even as early as next week. The process continues to go along very well." Japan banned beef imports from US after inspectors discovered spinal column in veal shipments. This ban resulted over fears of t mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). This particular action came within 30 days of Japan lifting the curbs on US beef imports. Japan has asked for some safeguards including the sifting of risky parts like spinal column. "My hope is that there's a point where we can get the technical people together to resolve the final issues that are there - Japan had talked about some additional requirements related to inspection -- and get those identified and then move to reopen the market to Japanese beef," Johanns said. "So far, so good." The U.S. Agriculture Department has taken serious note of the issue and has compiled a report on how to prevent such incidents in future.