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The Chicago Sun Times reports that even though Japan has dropped its ban on US beef, you cannot find American beef in supermarkets there -- except in Japan’s five Costco stores.

The reason is that while the government has reached an accord with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), shoppers don’t trust US beef and most retailers see no advantage in carrying it, preferring to carry beef from Australia or Japan.

It was less than a month ago that Japan imported its first shipment of American beef since the ban on US beef was lifted in July. In a departure from past practices, the entire shipment was examined by Japanese health officials to make sure it did not contain any banned products.

Japan’s borders were first closed to US beef when a case of mad cow was found in the US in December 2003, and then reopened late last year, only to be closed again early this year when beef containing spinal matter – specifically banned by the agreement reopening the border – was found in a Japan-bound shipment. Testing levels have been a major sticking point between the two countries. Japan's national policy is for every cow to be tested, but in the US, the government tests about one percent of the cattle population and plans to reduce this level of testing.
KC's View:
This must be an enormous disappointment for the US department of Agriculture (USDA), which seems to have made looking after the business concerns of the beef industry a far higher priority than the best interests of consumers.

USDA may be able to bully the Japanese government, but apparently Japanese consumers are a little more discerning.