Food Safety Agency Recommends Easing U.S. Beef Import Restrictions

by Amanda Hoelzeman  on Monday, Oct. 29, 2012 11:24 am  

The Food Safety Commission of Japan has recommended raising the age limit for cattle whose beef is imported into that country.

If Japan accepts the recommendation, that will increase opportunities for meat companies like Springdale-based Tyson Foods Inc., already one of the biggest U.S. beef suppliers to Japan.

Japan was the biggest buyer of American beef before a 2003 outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad-cow disease, in the U.S. Eating infected meat is linked to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare and fatal illness, in humans.

The Japanese government subsequently banned U.S. beef imports for two years, and currently accepts beef only from cattle aged 20 months or younger.

The commission now recommends the age limit for cattle be raised to 30 months.

Joe Schuele, a spokesman for the U.S. Meat Export Federation, said several steps still remain before the Japanese government makes a final ruling on whether or not to accept the recommendation, which was released Oct. 22.

“It’s an important step in the process,” Schuele said, “but it’s not the final step.”

The federation’s data shows U.S. beef exports to Japan totaled nearly $1.4 billion in 2003, but only $874 million in 2011.



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