An expert panel of the Food Safety Commission agreed Wednesday to work toward raising the age limit for domestic cattle to be tested for mad cow disease 48 months old, up from 30 months at present.
The minimum age for testing domestic cattle for mad cow, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), was raised Monday to 30 months from 21 months.
The panel, which is under the Cabinet Office, will formally propose the relaxed inspections to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry after public consultations.
The first case of mad cow in Japan was reported in 2001. The government instituted blanket testing of beef from domestic cattle that October but eased the requirements in August 2005, testing only cattle aged 21 months and above.
Japan banned imports of U.S. beef in 2003 after the first case there was confirmed. It lifted the ban in December 2005 but maintained some conditions, including an age limit of no younger than 20 months.
The import restrictions have since been eased. In February, the age limit for beef imported from the United States and Canada was raised to cattle 30 months old, up from 20 months.