The American Meat Institute (AMI) has acknowledged the US shipped beef to Japan containing bone from calves less than six months old - contrary to an import agreements between the two countries.

Japanese policy only allowed boneless beef from animals younger than 21 months to be imported from the US.

AMI president and CEO J. Patrick Boyle said: "We deeply regret the incident that has prompted Japan to suspend all US beef imports. We are confident in US beef safety and are committed to providing any assurances needed to restore exports.

"It is our understanding that a small shipment of veal from calves that were under six months of age was shipped. The product was inspected and passed by USDA as safe, but contained bones prohibited by the Japanese. This product is consumed with confidence here in the US. It is important to note that BSE has never been detected in an animal this young."

Japan banned all US beef shipments on Friday having discovered bones in veal from calves reportedly shipped from New York.