Japan, U.S. Hold 2-Day Technical Meeting On U.S. Beef Imports

Wednesday, June 27th 2007, 7:09 am
By: News On 6

TOKYO (AP) _ Japan and the U.S. began a two-day meeting on U.S. beef imports Wednesday to exchange views as the U.S. calls for an easing of Japan's tough import restrictions.

Japan only allows imports of U.S. beef from cattle 20 months old or younger, because mad cow disease has not been detected in meat from young cattle.

In May, the World Organization for Animal Health ruled that the United States was a ``controlled risk nation'' _ a country that can export beef from cattle of any age. The U.S. has cited that report in urging Japan to review its policy.

During the two-day closed, technical meeting, the U.S. will submit the data it provided to the animal health organization and Japan will examine it, agriculture ministry official Toshio Katagai said.

Japan is also expected to submit an interim report on its own study of mad cow disease detected in cows 21 and 23 months old in the meeting of agriculture officials of both countries, according to Katagai. Japanese foreign ministry and health officials also take part.

``We hope to have an efficient meeting and a substantial exchange of opinions,'' Takashi Himeda, an agriculture ministry official, was quoted as saying at the start of the meeting by Kyodo News agency.

Officials will give a briefing on results of the talks on Thursday.

Japan banned American beef imports in December 2003 after the first case of mad cow disease _ or bovine spongiform encephalopathy _ was found in the U.S.

The ban was eased in December 2005, but tightened again the following month after prohibited spinal bones were found in a veal shipment.

Tokyo eased the restrictions again last July, but allowed only meat from cows 20 months old or younger to enter Japan. Japan also bans meat with certain bone or spinal material attached.