Concerns about U.S. beef import agreement

Yomiuri Shinbun has a feature about American beef, that remain banned in Japan due ot BSE concerns. However, an agreement was reached last week to reopen the Japanese market. Japan will start inspections at 35 meatpacking facilities in the United States from late June and, if conditions are met, it will restart U.S. beef imports in July. The Japan Foodservice Association, comprising 450 restaurant operators said the demand for U.S. beef would likely be only 30 percent of what it was before imports were halted because consumers distrust U.S. beef, and the United States would be only allowed to export meat from cattle aged 20 months or younger.

Yasuaki Yamaura, deputy representative of the Consumers Union of Japan said, "If, at the [planned] meetings for consumers, many people ask the government to make greater efforts to ensure U.S. beef is safe, the government must not resume imports." "We'll listen to consumer opinion and make efforts to win back their trust," said an official of the U.S. Meat Export Federation's Tokyo office. "We'll relieve consumers of unnecessary anxiety by providing as much information as possible on the U.S. system to ensure the safety of its beef."

Asahi Shinbun calls the agreement tentative and notes that Japan's safety concerns about mad cow disease are "deep-rooted".

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