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Many cows ate fish meal mixed with MBM.

TOKYO, Dec. 5 Kyodo


Japanese livestock farmers widely gave to cows a type of feed made from a mixture of powdered fish meal and meat-and-bone meal (MBM) until the government prohibited the use of MBM in September for its suspected link to mad cow disease, industry sources said Wednesday.

The mixed feed was originally developed for poultry, but many farmers fed the feed -- known as ''adjusted fish meal'' -- to cows, the sources said.

Since the outbreak of mad cow disease in Japan in September, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry has been conducting a nationwide survey on the use of MBM feed for cows, but this special kind of fish meal has not been targeted.

The ministry has recently learned about the widespread use of adjusted fish meal, and is currently investigating whether it had been fed to the three infected cows, the sources said.

The findings may lead the ministry to expand the survey to include cows that had been given the fish meal, but it is extremely difficult to distinguish on the basis of appearance between fish meal that is 100% derived from fish and the adjusted one containing MBM.

An official at a feed manufacturer said, ''The only thing we can do is to trust what the raw ingredient makers say.''

A feed retailer said that if someone wants to confirm the ingredients of fish meal products, the only help would be ''written pledges submitted by ingredient makers that they are not using MBM, and on-the-spot inspections.''

The farm ministry survey has so far found that a total of 165 households engaged in livestock farming said they had given MBM intended for chickens and pigs to a total of 5,129 cows.

According to the ministry statistics, 195,000 tons of powdered fish meal was produced as the raw material for feed in fiscal 2000 ended March 31, 2001.

The outbreak in Japan is the first outside Europe and came to light when a cow infected with mad cow disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), was found in September, and two more cases were confirmed in November and on Sunday.

Human consumption of beef infected with BSE is thought to cause a new variant of the fatal Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a brain-wasting illness that has led to the deaths of more than 100 people in Europe.

The farm ministry's ongoing probe into cases of the three infected cows suggest Japan might have imported MBM, that were contaminated with BSE-causing agents, from Europe.

In a related development, members of the Hokkaido chapter of the Japanese Communist Party said Wednesday at least 3,000 cows on the northernmost main island are suspected to have been fed ''steamed bone meal,'' which is a variety of MBM.

Three local livestock farming households bought the meal made from cow bones from an unlicensed feed retailer and gave it to cows, the party members said.

Steamed bone meal is manufactured by steaming the bones of cows and other livestock at a temperature of 280 C, but the steamed bones still contain protein and can thus be contagious if the original cows were infected with BSE.

On Sept. 18, eight days after the finding on the nation's first mad cow case, the government prohibited feeding cows meal made from cows by revising regulations under the Feed Safety Law.

The government stepped up the measure Oct. 15 by revising the regulations again to prohibit feeding any livestock animals meal containing animal protein.

The prohibition was partly lifted Nov. 1, based on recommendations by experts, to allow giving chickens and pigs feed made from chickens or pigs, but such feed is still banned for cows.
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Publication:Japan Weekly Monitor
Date:Dec 10, 2001
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