In December 2003, Japan banned U.S. beef and beef products following the detection of a BSE-positive animal in the United States. In July 2006, Japan partially reopened its market to allow imports of some U.S. beef from animals aged 20 months or younger produced under a special program for Japan.

In December 2011, at the request of Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW), Japan’s independent FSC initiated a risk assessment to examine raising the maximum age of the cattle from which U.S. and certain other foreign beef and beef products could be exported to Japan, as well as revising the definition of specified risk materials (SRMs). (SRMs are certain cattle tissues that can carry the BSE agent.) Based on an FSC risk assessment released last October, Japan entered into consultations with the United States to revise the import requirements, including raising the age limit for U.S. cattle and adopting a revised definition of SRMs for U.S. beef and beef product imports that is closely aligned with international standards of the World Organization for Animal Health.