TOKYO – Japan’s government has put the brakes on imports from the JBS Swift & Co. Grand Island, Neb., beef plant after allegedly discovering the inclusion of vertebral column in a shipment checked on Dec. 19, according to Reuters. This material is prohibited by Japanese law to control the risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

This marks the 15th confirmed violation by US beef suppliers since Tokyo last resumed imports in July 2006. This decision was made as Japan's Food Safety Commission is planning to begin reviewing current import rules on US and Canadian beef on Dec. 22.

Currently, Japan only allows beef imports from cattle aged 20 months or younger and excludes parts considered as risky from a food-safety standpoint.

In place since 2005, Japan’s rules have resulted in US imports plunging while Australian beef gained market share in Japan's 500,000 ton-a-year imported beef market.

A detailed report on the investigation of this latest case by US authorities has been requested by Tokyo.

JBS officials stressed the incident behind the action taken by Japan was not an issue of food safety, but due to Japanese regulations. “Japanese authorities indicated they will delist the plant due to a single mispacked box that contained one item on that country’s specified risk materials [SRM] list,” a JBS USA spokesman told “While the item in question is eligible for shipment according to both US and World Organization for Animal Health [OIE] standards, the mistaken shipment does not meet the more stringent trade requirements of Japan.”

As a result, JBS said it is cooperating fully with the US Department of Agriculture and Japanese authorities in investigating this incorrect shipment. “In addition, JBS and its Grand Island plant have implemented corrective actions and will apply for relisting with Japan as soon as possible,” the spokesman said.