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Japan Studying U.S. Data To Decide On Beef Rules

07 August 2007

JAPAN - Japan is studying data provided by the United States on U.S. beef safety as it considers relaxing its rules on beef imports, Japanese Agriculture Ministry officials said on Monday.

Tokyo currently only allows American beef from cattle aged 20 months or younger, as a precaution against mad cow disease, but it has started to take steps which industry officials believe could lead to raising the age limit to 30 months. The data was provided at a two-day meeting of Japanese and U.S. experts late last week.

"We believe we have been provided with enough U.S. data to study risks from BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy)," Vice Agriculture Minister Yoshio Kobayashi told a news conference. "We are currently taking steps to evaluate the data."

He declined to say when government officials would complete their evaluation, although media reports have said it could be as early as this month.

The Yomiuri newspaper said on Saturday the government plans to tell Washington it will likely relax the restrictions as early as the end of August. The United States is struggling to regain its share of the beef market in Japan, which was the top buyer of U.S. beef before 2003, when Tokyo imposed a ban after the first U.S. case of mad cow disease, also known as BSE.

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Source: Reuters



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