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A U.S. plan to intensify mad cow disease surveillance has not affected U.S.-Japan beef talks or the ban on imports, a senior official at the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry said Tuesday.

“There has been no progress in talks between Japan and the United States, but we’ll see if the latest move will be followed by a new proposal,” said the official at the ministry’s Food Safety and Consumer Affairs Bureau, indicating Washington’s new program is aimed primarily at the domestic industry and is unrelated to the bilateral beef trade.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said Monday in Washington that the U.S. plans to intensify mad cow disease checks for a period of 12 to 18 months, beginning June 1, testing as many cattle in high-risk herds as possible.

The U.S. Agriculture Department made no specific prediction concerning how many beasts will be tested.

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