Japan banned imports of U.S. beef in December of 2003, after the first case of mad-cow disease was confirmed in a U.S. herd. The ban was lifted in December of 2005, but reinstated in January the following year after a U.S. veal shipment was found to contain specified risk materials, or SRMs. The ban was lifted again last July, after inspectors from Japan checked safeguards at U.S. meatpacking plants that were certified to process beef bound for Japan.
According to Japanese officials, no structural or systematic problems regarding U.S. beef imports or U.S. meat-processing plants were found during recent inspections. In a public hearing on Monday, Hideshi Michino, head of the Health Ministry's food division, told consumers and importers, "we will sort out our findings to decide what to do."