Vol. 5 Num 351 Wed. May 25, 2005  

Japan to resume US beef import

The Japanese government took a big step Tuesday towards reopening Japan to US beef by asking the national food safety agency to ease a ban imposed 17 months ago after the discovery of mad cow disease in the US herd.

The government asked the Food Safety Commission to allow imports of beef from cattle that the US government certifies as being aged 20 months or younger, which are considered to be at low risk from the brain-wasting disease.

The commission will soon start to review US safety measures against the disease to determine if they meet Japanese standards, a process that experts say could take several months.

Japan imposed a ban on US beef in December 2003 following the discovery of a case of mad cow disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), in Washington state.

Before the ban, Japan was the top importer of American beef, with imports valued at $1.4 billion in 2003.