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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 March 2006, 16:55 GMT
UK beef export ban lifted by EU
The ban was introduced 10 years ago to prevent the spread of BSE
A worldwide ban on British beef exports has been lifted by the EU - 10 years after it was introduced to prevent the spread of mad cow disease.

Live animals, beef and beef products should be able to be exported in about six weeks.

The National Farmers' Union welcomed the move as their members had lost out on trade worth 675m a year.

The environment minister, Margaret Beckett, said it was "a vindication" of the UK's efforts to control BSE.

The EU vets' committee unanimously adopted a resolution to lift the ban as the UK has taken necessary measures to prevent the spread of the disease.

The resolution will go to the European Commission, which will adopt the measures lifting the ban within around six weeks.

We know that our beef is, at the very least, as safe as beef produced anywhere else in the EU
Margaret Beckett
Environment minister

The lifting means that live animals born after 1 August, 1996, beef and beef products made from cattle slaughtered after 15 June 2005 will be able to be exported.

The European Commission eased the original ban on 1 August 1999 to allow exports of boneless British beef products from animals aged between six and 30 months to recommence.

But, on the advice of its scientific committee, the export of live cattle remained banned.

The US still has a ban on British beef products, which was imposed in 1997.

Ms Beckett said: "Britain's farmers produce high quality beef which will be in demand across Europe once the ban is lifted.

"We know that our beef is, at the very least, as safe as beef produced anywhere else in the EU."

EU commissioner for health and consumer protection Markos Kyprianou said it was time to acknowledge the "great strides" the UK had made to meet all the criteria for lifting the ban.

He said: "The commission has taken no chances when it comes to dealing with BSE and the most stringent monitoring and control measures have been applied.

Recapturing the market

"Precautionary measures, including the embargo on UK beef exports, were taken when deemed necessary to fully protect consumers."

The National Farmers' Union described the ban as "the most positive news for the British beef industry in a decade".

NFU president Peter Kendall said: "We can now look forward to recapturing the 675m market that was lost when the ban was put in place.

"This decision should create competition in the domestic market and provide access to potentially lucrative continental buyers."

Protest against live animal exports

He said the decision showed that the British beef industry had exceeded European food safety requirements.

The Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs welcomed the move.

The only beef which is currently eligible for export is UK boneless beef produced under the stringent conditions of the Date Based Export Scheme and beef of foreign origin produced under another scheme.

Food safety

BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), otherwise known as mad cow disease, has mainly affected cattle in the UK, where millions of animals had to be destroyed in the 1990s.

More than 183,000 cases have been confirmed in the UK to date, Defra said, with the annual total peaking at more than 37,000 clinical cases in 1992.

The number of new clinical cases is currently at the lowest level since recording began.

BSE has been linked to Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), a disease that causes paralysis and death in humans.

Although the EU ban was originally put in place to protect food safety, the export of live veal calves prompted mass protests at ports in the 1990s.

One such protest led to the death of protester Jill Phipps in 1995 outside Coventry airport where calves were loaded onto flights for the Netherlands.

The animal charity RSPCA said it was opposed to the resumption of live veal calf exports, as the animals suffered during lengthy journeys.

What the lifting of the ban could mean for farming

Finnie welcomes end of beef ban
08 Mar 06 |  Scotland
Scientists claim BSE-immune cow
31 May 04 |  Science/Nature
Warning over BSE infections
15 Jun 03 |  Scotland

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