• The Associated Press

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In an apparent bid to ease American criticism, Foreign Minister Taro Aso said Sunday that Japan won’t halt all U.S. beef imports even if another shipment is found to contain parts at risk for mad cow disease.

The government banned all U.S. beef imports in January after a veal shipment from New York-based Atlantic Veal & Lamb was found to contain cows parts prohibited by Japan because they’re considered to be at risk of the disease.

Aso said on NHK that Japan would deal with any future import rule violations by taking action against the shipper — not the entire beef trade.

“(A blanket response) would not be fair to the other shippers,” he said.

He said increased cooperation between Japanese and U.S. food safety officials would make it easier to track shipments and tailor responses to specific violations.

The government agreed last week in principle to resume U.S. beef imports, but only after Japanese inspectors finish a monthlong monitoring mission of U.S. meat processing plants.

Frustration has mounted in Washington over Tokyo’s closure of what was once the most lucrative overseas market for U.S. beef producers.

Some senators have threatened sanctions unless imports are restarted within weeks.

Mad cow disease is formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE. In humans, eating meat contaminated with mad cow disease is linked to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a rare and deadly nerve disease.

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