Sunday (18 December) saw Japanese quarantine inspectors clear the first shipment of beef from the US Meat Export Federation in two years, following the decision by Japan to ease an import ban.

The meat is apparently on its way to a luncheon in Tokyo Wednesday hosted by the US federation's president, Philip Seng, and to be attended by Japanese and US officials.

A ban had been in place over fears of BSE. But the Japanese government last Monday lifted the ban on imports of beef and beef offal from US cattle aged up to 20 months, on condition that risk materials that could transmit mad cow disease are removed before the meat is shipped.

Beef intended for the retail market was also passed by inspectors on Sunday.