The U.S. is sending a technical team to Japan this week in an effort to encourage that country to reopen its markets to U.S. beef. Before it halted shipments of U.S. beef in December 2003 over a mad cow discovery in Washington state, Japan had been the largest export market for U.S beef in the world, valued at $1.4 billion. The country resumed imports last December, but suspended them five weeks later when a New York veal company shipped prohibited cuts.
According to a report in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Japanese remain extremely wary of the disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy. The decision to send a delegation to Japan was apparently prompted by the efforts of some U.S. beef producers to voluntarily test their own cattle for mad cow disease, against the wishes of the USDA.