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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 March 2006, 11:57 GMT
Timeline: British beef ban
EU vets have lifted the worldwide ban on British beef exports.

Here are the key events in the 10-year controversy:

MARCH 1996

The worldwide export of British beef is banned amid fears over the threat of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or "mad cow disease".

The global export ban covers UK live cattle, meat and products.

JULY 1999

After more than three years of a trade blockade, the European Commission, on the advice of its scientific committee, announces an easing of the ban.

It allows exports of British boneless beef and products to recommence on 1 August.

Under the Date Based Export Scheme, exports are limited to beef and products from animals born after August 1996 and aged between six and 30 months.

The export of live cattle remains banned.

AUGUST 1999

The official end of the export ban is celebrated by farmers as the first consignments of animals due for export are prepared for slaughter and a marketing drive - centred on France - begins.

The farmers are subsequently angered when France and Germany announce they will not lift their bans on British beef because they have further questions over their safety.

NOVEMBER 1999

EU food safety commissioner David Byrne announces the start of legal action against France for refusing to lift the ban.

DECEMBER 1999

French PM Lionel Jospin says his country will not lift the ban and threatens to take the EU to court for trying to force it to take British beef.

FEBRUARY 2000

The European Commission begins legal action against Germany for its failure to lift its ban.

MARCH 2000

Germany agrees to lift its ban but France maintains it will not. Legal action against Paris goes ahead.

DECEMBER 2001

The European Court of Justice says France, in continuing with its ban, is acting illegally.

SEPTEMBER 2002

France's food safety agency announces that it is at last in favour of lifting its ban on UK beef.

MAY 2004

UK meat production safeguards mean British beef is as safe as meat from anywhere else in Europe, the European Food Safety Authority declares.

The authority also predicts the BSE risk will fall from "high" to "moderate" by the end of the year.

The annual incidence of BSE has now fallen to less than 200 cases per 1 million adult cattle.

The epidemic peaked at an annual total of more than 37,000 clinical cases in 1992.

SEPTEMBER 2005

The European Commission confirms the "moderate risk" status of British beef - the same as in the rest of Europe.

It also announces a final thumbs up for British beef after anti-BSE controls on farms and slaughterhouses in the UK are inspected.

Formal talks can now begin with EU governments on a road map for lifting the beef ban completely, the Commission says.

MARCH 2006

The worldwide ban on British beef exports is lifted by the EU almost exactly 10 years since it was imposed.

Veterinary experts vote to allow the UK to export live animals born on or after 1 August 1996, and beef and products from cattle slaughtered after 15 June 2005.

This brings the UK back into line with other EU countries.




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