TOKYO (Kyodo) — The farm ministry said Friday it has suspended beef imports from a U.S. factory that shipped beef that may have failed to meet Japanese import regulations.
Imports from the factory in Tolleson, Arizona, run by U.S. meat processor Smithfield, will be suspended for the time being, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said.
The factory shipped around 20 tons of beef shoulder to Japan, which arrived at Tokyo Port on Thursday.
Japanese authorities found that the meat container also contained about 700 kilograms of round beef, which had not been ordered.
The authorities could not confirm that the round beef had been obtained from cattle aged up to 20 months — one of the Japanese requirements for U.S. beef imports to ensure that they are free of risk materials linked to mad cow disease.
It is the seventh time that beef imports from a U.S. facility have been suspended since Japan conditionally lifted its import ban on U.S. beef in 2006, which was imposed following an outbreak of mad cow disease in the United States.
The ministry said it has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate the cause of the incident and to report back to the ministry.
Japan lifted the ban on U.S. beef imports on condition that meat is obtained from cattle aged 20 months or younger and that brain tissues and other specified risk materials deemed to be closely linked to mad cow disease are removed.
The ministry said the meat in question did not include those risk materials.