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EU says no ‘mad cow’ impact on US beef imports

Brussels, April 25, 2012

The European Union's executive said on Wednesday it did not intend to impose any particular measures on imports from the United States following the discovery of the country's first case of mad cow disease or BSE in six years.

"The (European) Commission is satisfied that the new BSE case has been confirmed in the framework of the ongoing BSE surveillance system in the United States, which prevented this animal from entering the food chain," EU Commission health spokesman Frederic Vincent said in a statement, referring to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.

Vincent said the confirmation of a new BSE case in a Californian dairy cow came as no particular surprise to EU officials after three previous cases had been confirmed in the Unites States between 2003 and 2006.

Samples from the infected cow have been sent to laboratories in Canada and Britain for final confirmation, the Paris-based world animal health body OIE said in a statement, adding that the case was unlikely to affect the current US Department of Agriculture "controlled risk" categorisation for mad cow disease.

"According to USDA statements, the steps taken so far are consistent with OIE standards," the statement said.      Mexico, Korea and Japan, three of the top markets for overseas US beef sales, said they would continue imports, although two major South Korean retailers have halted sales of US beef.

Russia could consider temporary restrictions on US meat exports in response to the mad cow case and has requested more information from US authorities on the outbreak and the response, an official said on Wednesday

The European Union imported about 15,000 tonnes of beef from the United States in 2010, worth some 84 million euros ($111 million), according to the most recent EU figures available.

EU lawmakers approved a deal in March to increase the bloc's duty-free import quota for non-hormone treated U.S. beef to 45,000 tonnes from August, ending a long-running dispute between Europe, the United States and Canada over the EU's ban on meat from cattle treated with growth hormones.

The US imposed a ban on all beef imports from the European Union in 1997, following a mad cow epidemic that spread from Britain to mainland Europe during the 1990s.

The Commission has long argued that the US restrictions on European beef imports are not in line with OIE rules, because EU countries are in the same "controlled risk" category.

Last month, the USDA published draft rules to lift the ban on EU beef imports, although EU officials say it could be many months until the restrictions are removed. – Reuters




Tags: EU | Brussels | European Union | USDA | Mad cow | US beef imports |

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