James Zumwalt, minister at the US embassy in Tokyo, has warned Japan against imposing another total ban on US beef imports, even in the event of prohibited risk materials being found in shipments of American beef to Japan.

Zumwalt said that even if prohibited materials were found in a shipment, Japan should, under the terms of a bilateral trade accord, only ban the particular meat processor from the list of eligible exporters.

His comments follow the news last week that Japanese and US Governments have reached an agreement on the conditions to resume exporting US beef to Japan.

Having only just lifted a two-year ban on beef imports following concerns over bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, Japan re-imposed a ban in January, after backbone was discovered in a shipment of veal from a New York meat processor.