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Report May Lead To Looser Beef Import Rule

12 June 2007

JAPAN - A report due out this week likely represents an initial step toward the government relaxing its stringent conditions on beef imports from the United States.

The expected report is by a team of specialists who checked U.S. meat processing plants to ensure the facilities comply with two main conditions set by the Japanese government on beef destined for Japan.

The conditions are that beef must come from cattle no older than 20 months, and that all risky beef parts--spinal columns, for example--are removed from shipments as a precaution against bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease.

According to sources, the team has concluded that meat processing facilities handling beef sent to Japan have all abided by the conditions.

If the report is issued as expected, sources say the U.S. government plans to ask Japan to relax its beef import conditions.

Discussions between the two sides could begin this month. American negotiators are expected to ask Japan to adopt international standards set by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), which says boneless meat from cattle aged 30 months or younger is safe.

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Source: Asahi Shimbun


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