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The Consumers Union of Japan urged the government Thursday not to remove its 14-month-old import ban on American beef as a result of what it claims is U.S. pressure.

In a letter to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the influential consumer group complained that a government study panel accepted, “under U.S. pressure and without showing experts’ scientific views,” U.S. assurances that a specific grade of U.S. beef would be free of mad cow disease.

Although panel members expressed skepticism, the government panel decided to accept it as a result of the chairman’s “comprehensive judgment,” the consumer group said.

The panel’s decision, if accepted by the government, would clear the way for Japan to begin importing U.S. grade A40 beef, which comes primarily from cattle aged 12 to 17 months.

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