USDA proposes easing restrictions on Japanese beef imports

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This August, the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced a proposal to amend regulations for the importation of meat and other edible animal products by allowing, under specified conditions, the importation of whole cuts of boneless beef from Japan.

In September 2001, APHIS prohibited the importation of ruminants and most ruminant products from Japan following the confirmation of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in a native-born cow in that country.

Japan recently requested that APHIS consider resuming the importation of beef from Japan to the United States. The proposal is also in accordance with international guidelines for safe trade with BSE-positive countries.

The APHIS and USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service responded to the request by evaluating the risks associated with importing whole cuts of boneless beef from Japan and reviewing the extensive research on BSE.

On the basis of the risk analysis, APHIS and the FSIS determined that it is not necessary to continue to prohibit the importation of whole cuts of boneless beef from Japan.

The proposed rule, which ran in the Aug. 18 Federal Register, would allow the importation of whole cuts of boneless beef that are derived from cattle, born, raised and slaughtered in Japan provided certain conditions are met.

The deadline to comment on the proposal was Sept. 19.

The proposed rule, along with supporting analysis, is available on EDOCKET and in the APHIS reading room. Go to to access the EDOCKET, view public comments, access the index listing of the contents of the official public docket, and access documents in the public docket that are available electronically. Click on "View Open APHIS Dockets" to locate the proposed rule, Docket No. 05-004-1.