The US Department of Agriculture is mulling over proposals to allow private enterprises voluntarily to test all beef destined for the Japanese market for BSE.

Such a move would be expected to ease the path for the Japanese authorities to start permitting US imports of beef again, commented a spokesman for Creekstone Farms Premium. Vice president, operations, Kevin Prentz, is reported by Kyodo News as saying that his company had not yet received a formal answer from the department, but that talks with USDA officials in Washington had left him “cautiously optimistic” that approval would be granted.

Following the discovery late last year of BSE in a cow in Washington state, Japan is stipulating that the US test all slaughtered cattle for BSE before it resumes imports of beef from the US.