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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 June 2006, 05:15 GMT 06:15 UK
Japan agrees to lift US beef ban
Black and white cow
The Japanese market was very lucrative for US beef exporters
Japan has agreed to lift its ban on US beef imports, a move that will allow American producers to resume exports to their biggest overseas market.

Japan's Agriculture Ministry said US imports would be allowed to restart pending successful inspections of US meat processing plants.

Japan first banned imports of US beef in 2003 due to fears over so-called Mad Cow Disease, or BSE.

At that time the Japanese beef market was worth $1.4bn (758m) to the US.

Previous ban end

Japanese Agriculture Ministry official Hiroaki Ogura said Japanese inspectors would now visit 35 meatpacking plants in the US that are certified to ship beef to Japan.

Only facilities whose safeguards meet Japanese standards will be authorized to resume exports.

Japan did initially lift its block on US beef in December of last year, but US imports only lasted one month before the ban was reintroduced after outlawed bone material was found in a batch of US veal from New York.

US Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns admitted at the time that it was an "unacceptable failure", but denied there was any threat to public health.

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