• The Associated Press

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The agriculture ministry said Tuesday it has authorized a meatpacker in California to resume beef exports to Japan, the last on the list of 35 U.S. beef processors approved for exports to the Japanese market.

The government announced on July 27 an easing of its import ban on U.S. beef, which was imposed due to worries about mad cow disease. Sales of American beef resumed last week for the first time since January.

Japan initially certified 34 U.S. meatpackers as eligible to export under a bilateral safeguard agreement, excluding National Beef Packing Co. because its procedures on packaging standards at a new plant in Brawley, Calif., were found to be inadequate.

Another meatpacking plant, American Foods Group, LLC, was approved for exports, subject to continued monitoring by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

While the import resumption opens what was once American beef producers’ most lucrative overseas market, recent surveys in Japan suggest it will be difficult for them to win back market share, with an overwhelming majority of consumers expressing safety concerns.

Most major supermarkets and fast food restaurants have said they have no immediate plans to use U.S. beef.

Japan initially banned American beef imports in December 2003 after the U.S. suffered its first case of mad cow disease.

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