(Dow Jones) — Japan has begun considering easing restrictions on beef imports from the U.S. that were imposed over fears of mad cow disease, government sources said Sunday.
Support appears strongest for a proposal that would allow beef from cattle aged 30 months or younger to be imported into Japan, rather than the current limit of 20 months or younger.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda could broach the issue during a summit meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama next month at the earliest, the sources said.
Japan banned imports of U.S. beef in December 2003, when the first U.S. case of mad cow disease was confirmed. It lifted the ban in December 2005 but imposed conditions that included limiting U.S. beef imports to meat from cattle aged 20 months or younger.
The brain-wasting disease is believed to be caused by abnormal prions, a type of protein. It can occur after the prions accumulate in an animal’s body over a long period.
Japan reinstated the import ban in January 2006 after a veal shipment from the United States was found to contain part of a backbone, a risk material banned under the bilateral beef trade agreement. The ban was lifted again in July that year under the same conditions.
Source: Dow Jones
Posted by Haylie Shipp