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FORT COLLINS, Colo. (Kyodo) Japanese and U.S. experts ended two days of talks Tuesday aimed at discussing ways to lift Japan’s import ban on American beef after visiting a beef processing facility here.

The talks were intended to devise scientific measures to verify cows’ ages, which may lead Japan to remove its ban on U.S. beef imports.

“We had a constructive discussion,” said Kenji Kanasugi, director of the Foreign Ministry’s Second North America Division.

But he denied that the talks have set the stage for a removal of the ban.

The visit to the processing facility, following a visit Monday to ranches and other facilities, was aimed at confirming whether U.S. methods to identify cows’ ages are effective, Japanese officials said.

After examining the contents of the talks, Japan plans to hold director general-level talks with the United States. Tokyo is expected to propose the resumption of beef imports if it determines the U.S. measures can ensure exports are limited to cows slaughtered before 20 months of age.

Japan has banned beef imports from the U.S. since mad cow disease was found in a Canadian-born cow in Washington state in December.

Tokyo is now inclined toward easing its requirement that all cattle slaughtered for beef be tested for mad cow disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy. It is considering removing beef from cows aged 20 months or younger from the testing requirements.

As most beef cows are slaughtered before 20 months of age in the United States, an accord between the two countries on how to verify their ages might pave the way for Japan to resume importing American beef.

The U.S. says the Agricultural Marketing Service’s quality certification program can guarantee cows’ ages.

Under the program, in which the U.S. government endorses quality improvement measures conducted by private firms, the cows’ ages can be determined by examining their flesh and bone density, it says.

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