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Cablegate: Japan Testing of Lobster Imports

VZCZCXRO6240
OO RUEHFK RUEHGH RUEHHA RUEHKSO RUEHNAG RUEHNH
DE RUEHKO #2187 2210832
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 080832Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY TOKYO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6463
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING IMMEDIATE 4817
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA IMMEDIATE 2723
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA IMMEDIATE 9715
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL IMMEDIATE 0808
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS IMMEDIATE
RUEHFK/AMCONSUL FUKUOKA PRIORITY 9306
RUEHHA/AMCONSUL HALIFAX PRIORITY 0028
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG PRIORITY 6565
RUEHNAG/AMCONSUL NAGOYA PRIORITY 7489
RUEHNH/AMCONSUL NAHA PRIORITY 1681
RUEHOK/AMCONSUL OSAKA KOBE PRIORITY 3050
RUEHKSO/AMCONSUL SAPPORO PRIORITY 9890
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI PRIORITY 0455

UNCLAS TOKYO 002187

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

USTR FOR WCUTLER
PASS TO USDA/FAS CBEAN
PASS TO DOC FOR NOAA/F/SF HELM AND HANSEN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ETRD JA
SUBJECT: JAPAN TESTING OF LOBSTER IMPORTS

REF: TOKYO 2105

1. (SBU) Summary: This message updates developments
concerning GOJ handling of imports of lobster from the U.S.
and Canada, in light of FDA warnings about Atlantic red tide
conditions and risks of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP).
To date, test results on all U.S. shipments have been
negative, and shipments have been released for sale. End
summary.

2. (SBU) Several shipments of live lobster have arrived in
Japan since the July 31 notification by the Ministry of
Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) and each has been referred
for testing for PSP toxins. To date, no U.S. shipments have
tested positive and all were allowed to enter the country for
sale. Three Canadian shipments have tested above the 4 MU/g
(mouse units per gram) threshold, although some other
Canadian shipments tested negative. Importers of those
shipments were given options reported reftel, but shipments
were not permitted to enter intact.
3. (SBU) An MHLW official has advised it is possible to
import lobster tails and claws after removing contaminated
parts in a bonded facility on the condition that 1) the
bonded facility to perform this processing must be licensed
for seafood sales business under the Food Sanitation Law, 2)
the importer consult with the quarantine station prior to the
processing, and 3) the importer submit a processing plan to
the quarantine station and receive permission to perform such
processing.

4. (SBU) Given the positive test results on some Canadian
shipments, lobsters from Canada have been elevated by MHLW
into a "mandatory test" category, while U.S. shipments are
still "voluntary test". The main difference in these
categories appears to be mandatory seems to involve GOJ
testing, while voluntary testing is generally being done by
third-party labs. Shipments have also typically been held in
bonded facilities until test results are returned. However,
at least one shipment was released to an importer's warehouse
with the instruction not to release it until negative test
results were received. Testing costs are reportedly about
$150 per shipment.

5. (SBU) Importers have asked about the possibility voluntary
testing might be done at labs in the U.S. prior to shipment,
but it is unclear precisely what MHLW will require in order
to accept certification of such a test result. The MHLW has
provisionally said it would need to examine the sampling
procedure, test method, and testing laboratory, and it might
ask for some form of government authentication. Embassy
expects the first shipment, accompanied by a certificate from
a U.S. lab, to arrive in Japan very shortly and should soon
have some report on its acceptance.

6. (SBU) This is some discussion of the FDA advisory in
Japanese on the Internet as well as in industry media, which
may eventually be picked up by mainstream media and the
public. Japanese importers are reportedly notifying their
dealers and customers of the advisory on a precautionary
basis. The concern is that advisories may not be enough,
given that Japanese consumers typically do eat the affected
portions of the lobster (tomalley), while U.S. consumers
generally do not. There are reports that some importers may
refrain from importing until environmental conditions and the
PSP risk have improved.
SCHIEFFER

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