June 29, 2006

China lifts US beef ban

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has restored imports of United
States beef, ending a two-and-a-half year ban prompted by fears
of mad cow disease, state media reported.

The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture would allow boneless
beef imports from U.S. cattle 30 months or younger that have
been stripped of spines, brains and other parts, the official
Xinhua news agency reported late on Thursday.

China's decision follows Japan's announcement earlier this
month that it may also soon lift its block on U.S. beef.

China, Japan and South Korea imposed the bans after mad cow
disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), was found
in U.S. cattle in December 2003.

In some cases, humans who have eaten beef have died from
Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a variant of BSE believed to
come from contaminated meat.

The United States has insistently lobbied both countries
and South Korea to lift the ban, which has been a boon to
Australian beef producers.

Chinese and U.S. officials met in May to discuss lifting
the ban after several rounds of talks. China has been a small
market for U.S. cattle producers, but Washington has been
anxious not to be locked out of the growing market.

China's Agriculture Ministry said on its Web site
(www.agri.gov.cn) that the ban had been lifted from Thursday
and Chinese inspection agencies would issue specific
regulations concerning restored imports.