TOKYO — The 700 tons of U.S. beef distributed in Japan after the country eased its import ban in December is safe and can be eaten with no worries, Japan’s agriculture minister said Jan. 26.

Shoichi Nakagawa told parliament the meat was closely checked for banned material such as bone and brains when it entered the country. Japan halted imports again Jan. 20 after it found banned spinal bones in a shipment of American veal.

Nakagawa said about 1,500 tons of U.S. beef has entered Japan since the easing of a two-year-old ban on Dec. 12. The ban was imposed in 2003 after the discovery of BSE in an American herd.

Of those 1,500 tons, more than 700 tons have already been distributed to supermarkets, restaurants and other outlets, but Nakagawa said that meat posed no health risk.

“There is no worry about this beef already in circulation. Based on U.S. responsibility and Japanese rules, the proper procedures have strictly been taken to allow them into Japan,” he said.

Still, Nakagawa said importers, restaurants and other businesses handling the meat should voluntarily check it for materials that are considered at risk of carrying BSE.

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