The US Department of Agriculture is sending a technical team to Japan to meet with officials, answer questions and increase the pressure on Japan to lift the ban on US beef, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said yesterday (22 March).

Japan reintroduced a ban on US beef in January due to fears of BSE just one month after restrictions were relaxed because of a shipment of beef from the US found to contain prohibited cuts. The USDA said that this shipment “posed no food safety risk but did not meet the specifications of the US export agreement with Japan”.

Johanns directed that a USDA technical team go to Japan after the Japanese government signalled a willingness to receive USDA experts.

“The United States is eager to provide any additional clarification Japan may request so we can resume beef exports to Japan as quickly as possible,” Johanns said. “I believe our report is thorough and actions address the unique circumstances surrounding this ineligible shipment. Now my hope is that we can take the next steps toward resumption of normal trade.”

The team consist of representatives from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, Agriculture Marketing Service, Foreign Agricultural Service and Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, led by Chuck Lambert, marketing and regulatory programs acting under secretary.