The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) adopted a resolution last Friday lifting cattle age limits for beef exports and imports with regard to BSE, a move likely to strengthen U.S. pressure on Japan to import beef from older cattle.

Under standards set by the global livestock industry watchdog, OIE, beef exports and imports had been limited to boneless meat from cattle younger than 30 months old. The resolution, adopted at an OIE general session, lifts the restriction, paving the way for exports and imports of boneless beef from cattle of all ages.

Japan has limited U.S. beef imports to cattle 20 months or younger and opposed the lifting of the age limit. With the adoption of the resolution, the U.S. is expected to strengthen its pressure on Japan to open its market more to U.S. beef.

Japan currently requires beef from domestically grown cattle aged 21 months and older to be tested for BSE. The possible relaxation of the mandatory testing standards is an "agenda under consideration" for the Japanese government.

The government is closely watching the response of consumers, and the adoption of the resolution may affect the relaxation issue.