TOKYO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Japan halted imports of U.S. beef on
just a month after lifting a ban, following the discovery of
spinal material in a shipment that should have been removed due to the
risk of mad cow disease.
U.S. officials immediately launched an investigation and ordered extra
training for all American meat inspectors, surprise inspections at
plants handling beef exports, and sent a team of experts to examine
meat shipments now held in Japanese ports.
"This is an unacceptable failure on our part to meet the requirements
of our agreement with Japan," Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns told
U.S. cattle futures fell on the news. The February live cattle
contract was down 0.825 cent at 95.300 cents a pound in early trading
on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
Japan first stopped all purchases of beef from the United States after
a case of the brain-wasting mad cow disease in December 2003, halting
annual trade worth about $1.4 billion.
The ban lasted two years and
became an irritant in otherwise close and friendly U.S.-Japan