Japan not afraid of mad cow disease anymore

The U.S. ambassador immediately welcomed the move, which reopens Japan's lucrative market to a select list of U.S. meat exporters, saying that it resolved an issue of primary importance to the United States.

The ban was imposed when Japanese inspectors checking a veal shipment found banned parts believed to be at risk for the illness. It was lifted after Japanese representatives toured U.S. facilities to ensure they met safety guidelines.

Health Minister Jiro Kawasaki announced the lifting of the ban after the Agriculture Ministry's mad cow advisory committee approved a resumption in imports.

Japanese inspectors on Sunday returned from a monthlong tour of 35 facilities in the United States to evaluate whether they comply with safeguards against mad cow disease. Japan requested the tour in June as a condition for its agreement in principle to resume imports, the AP reports.

Kawasaki said the inspectors found no problems at 20 of the 35 facilities. Thirteen of the 15 facilities with problems had made sufficient improvements by Thursday to be eligible for export to Japan, he said.