Sunday, December 26, 2004

Let them eat sushi

Christmas Eve marked one year since Japan banned US beef imports because of fears the US beef supply was not sufficiently protected against Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE or "Mad Cow Disease"). At issue is the US refusal to test all beef entering the food supply for BSE, regardless of age. All domestic cattle bound for the table are tested in Japan. A tentative compromise wherein all cattle older than 21 months would be tested seems to have been stalled. Japanese opinion polls have shown that consumers there are unwilling to trust the US beef supply and do not want their own country to relax its stringent regulations (story, Newsday). Apparently Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, an ardent supporter of Bush's Iraq debacle, will eat American shit but not American beef.

For those readers addicted to the red state/blue state formulation of politics, it is worth noting the irony that one of the beef industry's friends and most ardent opponents of stringent regulations was Texas Democrat (and cattleman) Charles Stenholm. Stenholm was redistricted to election defeat by Republican House Leader and Chief Scumbag Tom Delay, ending 17 inglorious years as a member of the Agriculture Committee helping to make the US food supply unsafe. It could have been worse. We could have lost a real Democrat. Good riddance.

Meanwhile in Japan, the food industry worries that the beef ban will have long-term effects. A spokesman for industry warned that "while Australian and Chinese beef imports have tried to fill the gap, they do not fulfill the same niche as U.S. beef, and a long-term ban could turn the Japanese off beef all together. . . . There is a chance that the consumers here will eventually be turned off by beef as a whole."

Wouldn't that be a shame.