Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Sunday, December 16, 2001

Case of mad cow disease
restricts Japanese imports

Question: My daughter just visited me here in Japan and sent back some things in the mail that she likes -- packaged dried ramen and kakimochi among the foods. Upon delivery in Hawaii, she discovered that postal inspectors confiscated about 10 packages of ramen and one pound of kakimochi because of beef extract that may be involved, this being related to the two cases of mad cow disease being discovered in Japan. Does this mean that ALL dried ramen and kakimochi made in Japan will now be banned by the Food & Drug Administration in Hawaii and the rest of the United States.? It seems very odd.

Answer: Actually, it was U.S. Customs inspectors who seized the packages.

"We are authorized to open parcels as U.S. Customs officers and inspectors here," an official said. "If we see anything in possible violation of one of the other 26 agencies that we support, including the Postal Service, that's in violation of one of their rules, we turn it over to them."

In this case, the ramen and rice crackers were turned over to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who seized it and "then put a notice in the (mailed package) telling the people why they seized it," he said.

It turns out that on Sept. 18, the USDA imposed restrictions on the importation of Japanese ruminants (cud-chewing animals) and ruminant products because of a suspected case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), more commonly known as "mad cow disease."

The case has since been confirmed. The restrictions apply to prohibited products arriving in ports on or after Sept. 10. BSE has never been diagnosed in the United States.

"The ban will last until Japan can show that it is free of BSE," said Ed Curlett, with the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. He explained that USDA has inspectors at all ports of entry into the United States.

"Working with customs officials, we inspect agricultural cargo to ensure it complies with our entry regulations," he said. "USDA also screens travelers when they enter the United States to ensure that no prohibited agricultural items enter the United States."

Bryan Ishikawa, also with the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection service, further explained that after a prohibited food item is confiscated, it is "steam sterilized and taken to a landfill."

He added that "the food items you might see around town from Japan were brought under USDA regulations, which requires a government cooking certificate."

Q: In January, the City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting limousines from parking in residential areas. Is this in effect now? What are residents supposed to do when these limos park in front of their houses? What is the fine for the abusers?

A: The Council didn't pass a new ordinance; it amended an existing one (effective June 6) relating to commercial vehicles to prohibit vehicles over 20 feet long from parking for more than four hours on any public street -- not just in residential areas, said police Sgt. Robert Lung of the Traffic Division.

Section 16-16.6 of the Revised Ordinances of Honolulu previously said commercial vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of 10,000 pounds or more could not park on public streets for more than four hours. That law covered buses, trucks, truck trailers, trailer vans, house trailers and any other vehicles used for commercial purposes over the weight limit.

The law was amended to add the word "rating" to read "vehicle for commercial purposes whose gross vehicle weight rating." Lung explained there is a "gross vehicle weight rating" noted on the side of a vehicle.

"The original law meant that we had to go and weigh the trucks" to determine if they were over 10,000 pounds, he said. Now, police can just take the number noted on the vehicle itself instead of having to weigh it, Lung said.

The second amendment added the time-limit parking restriction for vehicles whose "length, bumper to bumper, was 20 feet or more," Lung said. "That's where your limos would come in, because most of your limos are more than 20 feet long."

Exempted from this restriction are construction equipment and public utility vehicles, but only when such equipment and vehicles are being used for repair or construction work; and vehicles being used for the loading of goods, wares or merchandise.

Call 911 if you see a violation. Violators are subject to a $30 fine.


To two local teens, both 17, who stopped and helped police at the scene of a fatal accident on Tuesday night, Dec. 4. They parked their cars a very safe and long distance away, and ran back to the scene to help. When police arrived, the boys waited patiently and informed police of what they saw and did.

Without knowing, they were actually the only witnesses. Without them, police would not have known what happened. It is very nice to see the future leaders of this country get involved and actually help out and put their own needs second to someone else's. My heart goes out to the family of the young lady who died that night. -- Anonymous


To the irresponsible driver who rammed into my dark green Toyota about 9:45 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10, when it was parked on East Manoa Road. You fled the scene without even leaving a note. I hope someone was able to get your license number. -- C.O.

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