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A Japanese government official said yesterday that his country will only begin accepting US beef imports if and when the Bush administration is able to persuade the Japanese government that sufficient steps have been taken to prevent the spread of having bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), better known as mad cow disease

That is not expected to be anytime soon, according to published reports.

Late last month, the import of US beef into Japan was suspended because animal spines were found in three boxes of frozen beef being brought into the country. That discovery reignited concerns in Japan about the possibility that BSE-tainted beef could be coming from US suppliers. The new discovery and suspension came just a month after a two-year-old ban on US beef was lifted after months of intense negotiation, on the condition that imported US beef come from cattle no older than 20 months and that spinal cords, brains and other parts blamed for spreading the human variant of mad-cow disease be removed.

Before the ban, which was implemented after the first case of BSE was discovered on US soil more than two years ago, Japan was the most lucrative market in the world for American beef, importing than $1.7 billion worth in 2003.

Japan is very sensitive to the mad cow issue. Earlier this month, 45 cows at a Japanese farm were suspected by authorities of having mad cow disease. The government said that the farm was quarantined and the cows destroyed, and that there was no evidence that any of the disease got into the human food supply.
KC's View:
We have to side with the Japanese on this one. It took the Us about four weeks to violate the terms of the original import agreement, and there is no question that the US doesn’t test as much beef as the Japanese do – and they still have more BSE than we do.

They’re just doing the math, and saying, “Not so fast.”