Japan's newly appointed Agriculture Minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka has already said that he will not lift the previous government's restrictions on U.S. beef imports. Japan put the controls in place to protect consumers in Japan from bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly called "mad cow disease."
The minister's remarks Wednesday come as a cow on a far-north island of Japan has initially tested positive for BSE. If confirmed, it will be the 29th case of BSE in Japan.
Matsuoka says his main goal in regards to U.S. beef is to uphold Japan's sanitary and phytosanitary requirements. Although most countries consider 30 months the cut-off for risk of BSE in cattle, one of Japan's current restrictions on U.S. beef only allows the import of beef from animals less than 20 months old.
The Japanese press has characterized the 61-year old former agriculture ministry official as an expert on agricultural policy and a strong industry supporter.