Since mad cow disease isn’t that big a threat anymore, Japan has decided to relax restrictions on imported beef from the United States, France, Netherlands and Canada. By February 1, they will now allow imports of beef from cows up to 30 months old.
Previously, Japan banned imports of beef from cows older than 20 months. But following public hearings, Health Minister Norihisa Tamura left the decision to a government panel of medical and food experts. However, the Consumers Union of Japan is opposing the move, expressing concern that there might be lax checks on animal feed and product shipment from abroad and that the government may have underestimated the risks involved in relaxing the restrictions.
Japan is the world’s number 2 beef importer with 500,000 tons of beef being imported every year and an import market worth over $2 billion. It was the United States’ biggest market for their beef exports up until the restrictions were imposed in 2005. U.S. meat exporters like Cargill Inc and JBS USA Holdings Inc can now work towards regaining the market share which they lost to Australia.
Canada also welcomed the change in the restrictions. Trade Minister Ed Fast said that this is a result of their efforts to work with the Japanese government to expand access for their exporters. “…we look forward to taking our trading relationship with Japan to the next level through an Economic Partnership Agreement which would provide additional export opportunities for Canadian businesses,”, Fast added.[ via Castanet ]