U.S. beef returns to Japan

Japan's food commission Thursday declared American beef safe, paving the way for the government to ease a two-year ban and resolve a bitter trade dispute with its top ally.

The Food Safety Commission agreed unanimously to send its conclusions to the Health and Agriculture ministries, which will make a final recommendation to the government. According to media reports the Cabinet could decide to ease the ban on U.S. beef as soon as Dec. 12.

A resumption of imports — to be limited to meat from cows younger than 21 months — would defuse a dispute that has nagged the two allies since Japan closed its doors to American beef in December 2003 after the first U.S. case of mad cow disease.

Commission members, however, said that the safety of American beef would depend on U.S. inspectors following strict guidelines, such as removing dangerous cow material such as brains and spinal cords.

"Much of the approval is dependent on a promise between two countries," said Commission Chairman Masaaki Terada. "It's a question of trust."

The report also found beef from younger Canadian cows safe, the AP reports.


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