WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. officials said Friday it was premature for China to announce an end to a mad cow disease-related ban on American beef as it began accepting restricted imports.

China’s government said Friday it had resumed limited imports after a 2½ year ban imposed after the first U.S. case of mad cow disease. China said it would accept only boneless cuts of beef from cattle under 30 months of age.

Officials in the United States are pushing for a full resumption of trade. Agriculture Department spokesman Ed Loyd said there is no such deal.

Chinese negotiators had indicated they would follow guidelines of the World Organization for Animal Health, which would allow a broader resumption of beef shipments, Loyd said. The U.S. and China have yet to agree on a protocol, he added.

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said he was disappointed in China’s announcement.

“It’s time for China to open its market to all U.S. beef products, in accordance with the international standards established by the OIE,” said Johanns in a statement from Geneva, where he is attending global trade talks. “We will not be satisfied until a full range of U.S. beef products are once again accepted into the Chinese market.”

The U.S. has accepted age restrictions from other trading partners, such as Japan, which once was the top market for U.S. beef. The age restrictions are because infection from mad cow disease, the common name for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, is thought to spread with age.

In people, eating meat contaminated with BSE is linked to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a rare and deadly nerve disease.

AP-ES-06-30-06 1911EDT

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