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The New York Times this morning reports that Japan is easing "its decade-old restriction on imports of American beef," noting that "a Japanese government council that oversees food and drug safety cleared a change in import regulations that would permit imports of meat from American cattle 30 months old or younger, rather than the current 20 months.

"The change is set to take effect on Friday for American beef processed after that date, and shipments could start arriving in Japan in mid-February, according to the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries."

The ban was originally put in place in 2003 because of concerns about a single case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), better known as mad cow disease, found in Washington State. It was relaxed a bit in 2006, but the new move is expected to be at least of some benefit to ranchers who have been hit hard by rising feed prices and changing consumer tastes that have adversely affected sales.
KC's View:
This is good for everyone, but it has to be remembered that the new policy will remain in place as long as there are no mad cow cases in the US to spook the Japanese. If there's another case, there will be another ban.