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Japan to lift ban on U.S. beef

Japan is expected to lift its ban on U.S. beef on Tuesday, according to Japanese media reports.

The Kyodo News Agency reported the two countries have agreed on strengthened U.S. safeguard measures against bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

U.S. beef could re-enter the Japanese market as soon as mid-July, according to the Kyodo News Agency report.

Sources told the news agency that Japan's Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry will send officials to the U.S. once the ban is lifted.

Those Japan officials plan to examine whether 35 U.S. meatpacking plants certified to export beef to Japan are complying with conditions agreed upon between the two countries.

Under the trade agreement, U.S. beef shipments to Japan are limited from cattle aged 20 months or younger, with the removal of brain, spinal cords and other specified risk materials for mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

Only beef plants that clear the safety measures of the Japanese officials will be authorized to export beef to Japan, the report stated.

Following the December 2003 discovery in Washington state of an imported Canadian cow infected with BSE, more than 50 countries closed their markets to U.S. beef.

In 2003, the U.S. exported a record 2.5 billion pounds of beef valued at over $3.1 billion. In 2005, the U.S. exported less than three-quarters of a billion pounds, valued at less than $1 billion.

Japan is expected to lift its ban on U.S. beef on Tuesday, according to Japanese media reports.

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