Japan, U.S. To Hold Technical Meetings Over US Beef Imports This Week


Monday, June 25th 2007, 7:10 am
By: News On 6


TOKYO (AP) _ Japan and the U.S. will hold a two-day technical meeting on U.S. beef imports, officials said Monday, amid expectations the talks may pave the way for easing Japan's strict import restrictions.

Officials from the two countries will meet Wednesday and Thursday in Tokyo, according to a press release by the Japanese Health and Agriculture Ministries.

Japan only allows imports of U.S. beef from cattle 20 months old or younger, because the mad cow disease has not been detected in meat from young cattle _ although the U.S. has called for that restriction to be eased.

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

During the two-day closed talks, Washington will submit the data it provided to the animal health organization and Tokyo will examine it, Agriculture Ministry official Toshio Katagai said.

Earlier this month, Japan announced that it found no safety problems at the dozens of U.S. meatpacking facilities it inspected in May.

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.