An advisory panel in Japan agreed Monday that the country could stop testing cows under 20 months of age for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) without causing a public health risk. This could be good news for the U.S. cattle market if Japan considers ending the requirement that all cattle be tested for the disease.
According to news reports the Japanese Cabinet's Food Safety Commission that oversees the panel won't immediately comment on the report. Japan banned imports of U.S. cattle last December after the first discovery of BSE in a cow from Washington state.
Japan currently requires testing all of the 1.9 million head of cattle processed in that country. That's a demand Japanese officials had been asking of U.S. producers, but with more than 35 million head processed a year, trade negotiators considered the requirement a high cost to bear.
About 80% of the cattle processed in the United States are younger than 20 months of age, which would make that beef exportable to Japan under relaxed testing rules. There have been rumblings in the past few weeks that Japan was considering some moves that would reopen the market to U.S. beef.
According to a report from Reuters, Vice Agriculture Minister Mamoru Ishihara says ministry officials would consider the report after revisions had been completed. One Japanese cabinet official is quoted saying that the government would take into account the content of the report, which is based on scientific discussion, in its negotiations with the United States.