Japan's health ministry says it will ask its Food Safety Commission to review import rules currently imposed on U.S. and Canadian beef, amid speculation that the country may ease restrictions on imports of beef from North America.

Japan only allows imports of U.S. and Canadian beef from cattle aged 20 months or younger due to BSE fears. The rule, in place since 2005, has caused U.S. imports to plunge and Australian beef to gain market share in Japan's 500,000 ton/year imported beef market.

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