The Japanese ministry of agriculture, forestry and fisheries said yesterday (21 December) that from the beginning of January it would be implementing a ban on all beef and beef products from the majority of European countries, including the EU, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

Currently a similar ban is in place with regard to UK produce, but in a bid to restrict the spread of BSE beef the new Domestic Animal Infectious Disease Control Law prevents imports reaching Japan from countries where no BSE cases have even been confirmed.

More than 90% of Japan's beef imports come from the US and Australia, and last year EU imports amounted to less than 0.1% of total beef imports. Plans are also in place to prevent the use of cow or sheep materials in animal medicines and feeds.