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Safety terms for U.S. beef imports to stay: ministry

13 March 2007

JAPAN - Japan won't relax its safety requirements for American beef despite an announcement in Washington that an international animal health organization will classify the United States as a country that can export beef regardless of cattle age, a senior farm ministry official said Monday.

The decision "will not immediately lead to changes in import terms for U.S. beef," Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Vice Minister Yoshio Kobayashi said at a press conference.

It is too early to discuss the issue because an examination of U.S. terms for exporting beef to Japan has not been finished, Kobayashi said.

"We are not at the stage of participating in negotiations to review the terms of trade," he said.

The decision by the Scientific Commission of the World Organization for Animal Health was announced Friday by the U.S. Agriculture Department.

The Paris-based organization, known commonly by the French acronym OIE, is expected to formalize the panel's decision at the OIE's General Assembly meeting in May.

The U.S. is expected to use the status granted by the OIE to press Japan to raise its age limit for slaughtered cattle by 10 months or remove it completely. At present, cattle used to make beef for import to Japan must be 20 months or younger.

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Source: The Japan Times


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