Japan bans U.S. beef

Japan halted all shipments of U.S. beef because of mad cow fears Friday, threatening millions of dollars in American exports and sending officials scrambling to repair delicate trade relations.

Japan's sudden order came just six weeks after the country had lifted a two-year ban on &to=http://english.pravda.ru/yougoslavia/2001/01/09/1913.html' target=_blank>American beef. The problem this time: discovery of bone _ a mad cow disease risk, Asian countries say _ in a shipment of veal from a plant in New York.

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns called the problem "an unacceptable failure" to meet Japan's requirements. He dispatched inspectors to Japan and ordered unannounced inspections at U.S. plants.

"We are taking this matter very seriously, recognizing the importance of our beef export markets," Johanns said.

Japan's discovery was a jarring setback for the U.S. meat industry and the &to=http://english.pravda.ru/letters/2003/02/11/43227.html' target=_blank>Bush administration, both of which had been optimistic about the prospects of selling more beef in Asia despite lingering restrictions on U.S. products.