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011124 Japan May Soon Lift Ban on USA Poultry

November 12, 2001

Chicago - Japan's ban on poultry meat from the United States could be lifted soon because the suspected avian influenza in a Connecticut flock that prompted the ban was a mild form and not harmful, U.S. poultry industry officials said.

“I think it will end fairly quickly,” said Toby Moore, spokesman for the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council, of the ban. “It already is a significant financial blow to the industry.”

Japan, the fifth largest overseas buyer of U.S. poultry, on Friday suspended imports of U.S. poultry meat after it was apparently told by the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo that the Connecticut avian influenza was a more dangerous highly pathogenic variety.

“All the information I have is it is not highly pathogenic,” said Charles Beard, vice president for research for the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association.

A flock of about 16,000 chickens in Connecticut was killed recently after tests in October found some birds had antibodies to the low-pathogenic avian influenza virus. Low-pathogenic avian influenza is contagious but not fatal to the birds, is not harmful to humans, and cannot be spread through the meat, industry officials said.

The concern here is that the ban may hurt U.S. sales. U.S. Agriculture Department data show that last year Japan bought $131.6 million worth of U.S. poultry.

The Poultry and Egg Export Council's Moore said USDA sent a letter last week to Japan explaining that the U.S. did not have an outbreak of avian influenza.

USDA offices were closed on Monday in observance of the U.S. Veterans Day Holiday and USDA officials were unavailable for comment.

The head of U.S. meat giant Tyson Food Inc on Monday also said the misunderstanding should be rectified soon.

“We believe that this will be undone very quickly because it appears that the information that was put out was incorrect,” said John Tyson, Tyson's chairman and chief executive. “It was suggested that it was a very virulent strain of AI in Connecticut that is not true. It looks like it was just exactly the opposite.”

“Our judgment is that this will become unwound by tomorrow (Tuesday). There is a holiday problem here,” Tyson said.


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