Concluding that U.S. beef is safe for Japanese consumers, Japan's Food Safety Commission issued its final report, allowing Japan's Ministry of Health Labor and Welfare to re-open the Japanese market to U.S. beef. However, the agreement to reopen the market restricts product to animals of 20 months of age or younger and stipulates an age-verification process that will sharply limit the number of eligible animals.
Several Asian news sources, including Japan's Asahi Shimbun, have speculated that the Japanese market may officially reopen as soon as Monday, December 12, 2005.
In a statement to the media, American Meat Institute President and CEO J. Patrick Boyle notes that the Institute was "pleased" that the FSC had endorsed the safety of American beef and added that this partial reopening of trade was an important first step towards the goal of full resumption of beef trade.
"This partial reopening of trade with the U.S. in beef from animals 20 months and younger is a small, but important step toward the goal of restoring full beef trade with Japan. While we look forward to being able to provide high quality US beef to the Japanese market, the vast majority of the U.S. beef supply will remain ineligible for export to Japan due to the age limitation," he notes.
In November, AMI sent a letter to President Bush pointing out that under Organization of International Epizootics standards, "there is no cattle age requirement necessary" for trade in beef with countries with the low BSE risk level of the U.S. "The restrictive conditions imposed upon U.S. beef exports to Japan are inconsistent with OIE standards for international beef trade. OIE guidelines clearly provide that that there should be no cattle age requirement imposed on beef from a country with a low level risk from BSE, like the United States, because appropriate and effective risk mitigation measures have been in place for many years," Boyle says.