Japan Suspends Some Tyson Beef Imports

A shipment of beef to Japan from a Tyson Foods meat plant contained two boxes of beef from cattle that exceeded Japan's age limit of 20 months or younger, Tyson said Friday.

Japan said it will suspend imports from the Nebraska plant that had shipped the beef because the cargo did not include documents providing the age of the cattle.

"We are working through USDA to resolve concerns over the inadvertent shipment of two boxes of beef from our Lexington (Nebraska) plant that were not eligible for export to Japan," Gary Mickelson, Tyson's spokesman, stated in an e-mail.

The beef was from cattle under 30 months of age, Tyson said. The boxes, which had a total of 95 pounds of boneless short ribs, did not contain any materials considered a possible risk for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly called mad cow disease, Tyson said.

Japan insists on beef from cattle 20 months of age or younger as a precaution against mad cow disease. Younger cattle are believed to have a lower risk of developing the disease.

Tyson said it will continue to ship beef to Japan from its other six U.S. beef plants.

Mad cow disease is a fatal brain disease in cattle and scientists believe humans can contract a similar fatal brain disease by eating nervous tissue and certain other parts from infected cattle.

The United States has had three cases of mad cow disease since December 2003.