TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japan plans to ease restrictions on beef imports from the United States, Canada, France and the Netherlands imposed over fears of mad cow disease, farm ministry sources said Friday.
The move was endorsed the same day by the ministry's panel on food safety, the sources said.
Japan currently allows imports of U.S. and Canadian beef only from cattle aged 20 months or younger, and totally bans beef imports from France and the Netherlands.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries intends to relax the restrictions as stepped-up safety and other measures have reduced the global number of cows infected with the brain-wasting disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, from 2,215 in 2001 to 45 in 2010 and to just 12 in the first nine months of this year, the sources said.
While the ministry will work out details of how to ease the restrictions, an increase in the age limit for U.S. and Canadian beef to 30 months or younger is expected to be among them.