U.S. beef exports continue to gain ground with Columbia and Peru lifting post-BSE bans on U.S. beef last week. Overall, U.S. international beef sales are expected to be up 36% next year, says Phil Seng, U.S. Meat Export Federation president and CEO.

There are obviously still major issues to resolve with some key trading partners, though.

For instance, though it appears South Korea may be ready to back away from its zero-tolerance policy on bone fragments, there are still no specifics.

Moreover, last week, Japanese importing procedures at Swift's Greeley, CO, plant were temporarily deferred after Japanese officials discovered a box of thymus gland among an 11-ton shipment of 760 boxes containing chilled beef and chilled tongue.

According to Swift & Company, "The box of thymus gland in question was not listed on the export certificate issued by the USDA. At this time, thymus gland is not on Swift's eligible product export list to Japan. Thymus gland is not a designated specified risk material and is eligible for import into Japan. The box in question was derived from cattle under 21 months of age and presents no risk to food safety."

Swift officials explain, "Swift intends to fully cooperate with U.S. and Japanese officials to expedite the resolution of this import deferral issue. Swift's three other beef facilities in the U.S. remain eligible to export products to Japan."

Import procedures for shipments from the Greeley beef facility will be temporarily deferred pending a final USDA investigation and subsequent implementation of corrective procedures. Japanese government officials intend to visit the Greeley facility to conduct a final confirmation of the corrective measure implementation. Import procedures for the Greeley facility aren't expected to resume until completion of the official visit.