"We welcome the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) announcement that the US will progressively re-open its market to exports of beef from the European Union, starting with the Republic of Ireland.
This re-opening of the market is a welcome first step to abolish the disproportionate and unjustified US ban that followed the BSE crisis of the 1990's, and to re-establish normal trading conditions.
This announcement sends an important and positive signal to the other EU Member States who have requested the US to re-establish access to the US beef market. It is now desirable that the US acts expeditiously to extend the approval to the rest of the European Union and to fully bring their import conditions in line with international standards.
We also welcome that this move, which forms part of a growing trend, recognises the robust, comprehensive and successful measures put in place by the EU to eradicate BSE. We call on our few remaining international trading partners who still maintain restrictive measures, to fully adopt recognised international standards."
The US market has been closed to any EU beef, including deboned beef, since January 1998, when the US introduced import restrictions on beef, sheep and goats (ruminant animals) and their products on the basis of BSE concerns. These measures went beyond the standards of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) according to which, for example, deboned skeletal muscle beef is safe and can be freely traded from all countries, regardless of their BSE status.
In addition, the OIE has evaluated the BSE risk status of EU Member States. In recognition of the EU's enormous efforts and investment to control and eradicate BSE, almost all EU Member States have the same or a better risk status than most countries in the world. EU beef is safe.
These standards were established in 2005. Following this announcement concerning Ireland, the EU expects that restrictions remaining in force on other EU Member States will soon be lifted. Also in line with international standards, the EU expects that remaining import restrictions on EU sheep and goat meat will be lifted soon as well and the US import conditions will soon be fully aligned with international standards.
The EU internal market has delivered a high level of food safety for consumers both in the EU and abroad, based on international standards and solid science. The agriculture and food sectors must be able to capitalise on this achievement. This market opening also sends an important signal to the EU's trading partners worldwide that EU beef is safe, and that imports of EU beef should be swiftly resumed.