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U.S. beef back on Japanese plates

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Aaron

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U.S. beef back on Japanese plates

Sunday, December 18, 2005 Posted: 0445 GMT

TOKYO, Japan (AP) -- Customs officials in Japan on Sunday awaited the first beef shipment from the U.S. Meat Export Federation since the easing of an import ban imposed two years ago after America's first case of mad cow disease, officials said.

Several flights from the U.S. carrying American beef were expected to arrive at Narita Airport Sunday, according to Masayoshi Fukuda, a quarantine official at the airport. He could not immediately confirm other details.

The first consignment from the American trade organization U.S. Meat Export Federation, was destined for a luncheon Wednesday held by federation president Philip Seng, to be attended by Japanese and U.S. officials, according to Tatsuhiko Sato, a spokesman for the group.

Kyodo News agency said the federation's 130-kilogram (286-pound) cargo will consist of tenderloin beef contributed by the American Foods Group in Wisconsin, Cargill in Minnesota, Harris Ranch in California and Swift & Co in Colorado.

On Friday, the first shipment of U.S. beef to Japan in nearly two years arrived after the Japanese government eased its import ban on American beef, according to Japan's Health Ministry.

About 4.6 tonnes of meat was processed at Selma, California-based Harris Ranch Beef Co and imported by Marudai Food Co which said it will not sell the meat to consumers but use it for internal testing.

Sunday's shipment is expected to include two cases of Nebraska beef.

Nebraska officials hand-carried the beef to Japan, so they could serve it at a reception in Tokyo Monday night. A larger shipment of Nebraska beef was still awaiting full approval to enter Japan Saturday morning.

The officials believe the shipment from their state was the first to clear Japanese customs and enter the market.

Japan's customs officials were not immediately available for comment Sunday.

Japan slapped a ban on imports of American beef in December 2003 after the first case of mad cow disease was reported in the U.S. herd.

After two years of negotiations and a lengthy Japanese approval process, Tokyo opened its doors Monday to meat from U.S. cows under 21 months of age.

Before the ban, Japan purchased more American beef than any other country in the world, buying $1.4 billion worth in 2003.

Since then, Australia has surpassed the United States as the biggest beef exporter to Japan.
 

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