The Japan Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) began deliberations at a food safety panel on easing screening requirements for domestic beef and import restrictions on U.S. beef that were imposed over fears of bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
Up for consideration is whether or not to allow beef from cattle aged 30 months or younger to be imported from the United States, rather than the current limit of 20 months or younger. Japan banned imports of U.S. beef in December 2003 then eased that to the current 20-month restriction in 2005.
If it came to pass, the rule change could be worth as much as US$1 bill. more in annual U.S. beef exports.
Two weeks ago the Japanese newspaper "The Yomiuri Shimbun" quoted government sources as saying Japan will likely ease import restrictions on beef from the United States and some other beef exporters as early as next year.
Source: The Japan Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW)