Japan does not intend to ban beef imports from the U.S., even after the recent discovery of mad-cow disease in California, according to the agriculture ministry.
A case of mad-cow disease was discovered for the first time in six years in the U.S., but the beef did not enter the food chain and posed no threat to consumers, a chief representative of the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.
Japan will however continue to import beef from the U.S. “under rules agreed between the two nations, based on the assumption that mad-cow disease has not yet been eradicated,” said Minoru Yamamoto, director at the ministry’s international animal health affairs office, quoted by Bloomberg.
According to current import rules, Japan only accepts cattle 20 months old or younger. The reason is that older cattle are more prone to risks of infection with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, the official name of the mad cow disease. The rule has been in place since 2005, when Japan resumed importing from the U.S. after the burst of the disease in 2003. Before 2003, Japan was the largest beef export market for the U.S.
The Japanese authorities have been considering in the last few months extending the age limit for import cattle to 30 months. It is still unclear if the appearance of the new mad-cow disease case in the U.S. will affect these plans or not.