Japan to allow more imports of U.S. beef

Japan is set to loosen restrictions imposed on the import of U.S. beef after a case of mad cow disease was discovered in the U.S. in 2006.

Beginning Feb. 1, Japan will allow the import of beef and beef products derived from cattle younger than 30 months old, according to Food Safety News.

Currently, beef exported to Japan from the U.S. must come from cattle younger than 20 months old – a rule that’s been in place since 2006. It followed the 2003 discovery of a cow with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or mad cow disease) in the U.S. Japan initially banned the import of U.S. beef following the discovery.

Imports of U.S. beef dropped 60 percent from 2001 to 2011—or roughly 120,000 tons, according to Reuters.

The new rule is expected to allow for “hundreds of millions of dollars” in exports to Japan, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“Today’s announcement reflects another successful effort by the Obama Administration that boosts the bottom line for America’s agriculture. We are in the most successful period in history for America’s agriculture sector, with agricultural exports this year expected to set yet another record,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, in a statement. “We will continue our efforts to break down barriers and expand access for high-quality, safe and wholesome U.S. food and agricultural products to Japan and around the world.”

Last year, the U.S. also began allowing the import of certain types of Japanese beef after imposing import restrictions in 2010, following a foot and mouth disease outbreak in the Pacific nation.

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