Japan Ends Two-Decade U.K. Beef Ban as Mad Cow Disease Fears Dim

(Bloomberg) -- Japan will end a ban on U.K. beef imports imposed in the mid-90s during the mad cow disease epidemic as fears over the devastating infection recede.

The ban on all U.K. beef shipments that had been in place since 1996 in a bid to stem the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, will be lifted following recommendations from a food safety committee, the Asian nation’s health ministry said on Wednesday. British cattle younger than 30 months will be allowed for import, it said.

Japan’s loosening restrictions on U.K. beef follows China, which lifted its ban on U.K imports in June. Eating meat from animals infected with BSE has been tied to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, an incurable human illness that destroys brain tissue. In the 1980s and 1990s, Britain suffered an epidemic of mad cow disease that killed several people and led to widespread export bans on beef. Since then, cases have been sporadic and isolated.

In November, a panel of food safety experts also recommended Japan lift its age restrictions on U.S. beef imports. Japan hasn’t allowed imports of American cattle older than 30 months due to concerns older animals have a higher risk of having BSE. Tightening controls over cattle feed has reduced the risk of the disease, with few new cases reported in past years, the panel said.

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