Commission fuels hope for lifting of ban on U.S. beef

The Food Safety Commission on Thursday softened its stance on the issue of blanket tests for mad cow disease, fueling hopes that the import ban on U.S. beef may be lifted within the year.

The commission, which operates under the Cabinet Office, endorsed a recommendation submitted by a panel of experts Monday that cited the difficulty of detecting bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cows aged 20 months or younger using current testing methods.

The recommendation effectively called on the government to exclude beef cattle under this age from tests for the brain-wasting disease, marking a U-turn from the three-year-old blanket testing regime, instituted when Japan suffered its own mad cow outbreak.

Following the commission’s endorsement of the recommendation, the government is expected to start deliberations on ending the blanket tests, which have been in place since October 2001.