With the arrival Sunday in Tokyo's Narita airport of a first shipment, United States officially resumed sales of beef following the lifting of the ban imposed last January by the Japanese Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries ministry.
The lifting of the ban became effective last July 27 when Japan and United States agreed on strict sanitary measures to impede the spread of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy or "mad cow" disease, following several outbreaks in United States.
This is the second time in three years that Japan bans US beef imports: the first was in December 2003 and it was only lifted last December (2005). However the ban was re-imposed last January when rests of back bone marrow were discovered in a shipment.
United States beef exported to Japan must come from cattle no older than 20 months and with no parts considered risky such as brains and backbone marrow.
In 2003, US beef exports to Japan reached 200.000 tons equivalent to 20% of Japanese demand.
Japan's unmovable position regarding sanitary conditions had several US Senators from cattle breeding states draft a bill demanding special compensation from the Japanese government. However tensions seemed to have eased following the resumption of shipments.