Japan’s agriculture minister has said his department should have inspected US cattle facilities more thoroughly before easing a beef ban last month, reported the Associated Press (AP).

Shoichi Nakagawa apologised in parliament for checking just 11 American facilities before deciding to ease the import ban. The agriculture department did not inspect some 40 other US factories on its list, as required by the Japanese Cabinet.

“I apologise for not fulfilling the requirement to conduct inspections prior to the resumption,” Nakagawa reportedly told a parliament committee. “I will think about how to take responsibility for that.”

Nakagawa defended himself by saying that it would have been impractical to evaluate compliance by the US beef processors when shipments to Japan had not even started, reported the AP.

On 23 January, just-food confirmed that Japan would once again halt beef imports from the US over BSE fears just weeks after it lifted a two-year ban.

A shipment of veal was discovered by the ministry’s Narita International Airport animal quarantine branch that contained a veal backbone, said officials.