Japanese government officials and local media said on January 22, 2013, that the country will be easing its restrictions on American and French beef imports. The restrictions were imposed due to concerns over mad cow disease being spread in the Asian country in the form of imported beef.
Japan was once considered to be one of the largest buyers of beef from the US, but imports were halted after a case of mad cow disease was detected in an American herd in the year 2003. Now Japan imports meat only from cattle aged under 20 months. The Asian country is also planning to raise the age limit of imported cattle to 30 months, beginning February 1, 2013. This limit will also be subsequently raised if the health ministry gives the nod.
The health, labor and welfare minister Norihisa Tomura said in a news conference that the country will also apply the same age limit to beef that is imported from France, which was once completely banned from selling beef to Japan.
Among other European exporters of beef, Netherlands will remain banned from selling meat to Japan. Kyodo said that his country was in talks with the Dutch government so as to set the age restriction of imported cattle to 12 months. This was made in response to a request from the Netherlands. If the restrictions are lifted from the beef import business, the meat is expected to arrive in Japan in the month of February 2013 or early March 2013.