WASHINGTON, Jan. 5, 2015 – The U.S. will once again allow importation of Irish beef, ending a 15-year closed-door policy instituted because of worries of spreading bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, to American herds.

The ban – implemented in January 1998 – included restrictions on imports from all member countries of the European Union. A joint release from EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, and Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan said the U.S. announcement “sends an important and positive signal to the other EU member states who have requested the U.S. to re-establish access to the U.S. beef market.”

“This re-opening of the market is a welcome first step to abolish the disproportionate and unjustified U.S. ban that followed the BSE crisis of the 1990s, and to re-establish normal trading conditions,” the EU officials said in their statement. Hogan, a native of Ireland, also posted a tweet calling the U.S. announcement “a vote of confidence after a long wait.”

While the ban on European beef imports was formally lifted in March 2014, Irish beef is the first to be officially allowed back in the U.S.

In a statement, Simon Coveney, Ireland’s agriculture minister, called the announcement “the culmination of two years of intensive work between my department and our U.S. counterparts to prove our credentials as a supplier of highest quality premium beef.”

“This U.S. market is a huge prize given the size of the market and the demand we know exists there for premium grass-fed beef. We now have first-mover advantage as a result of being the first EU member state to gain entry,” Coveney said.

In 2013, UDSA’s Economic Research Service figures showed 2.03 million head of cattle imports and 2.25 billion pounds of beef and veal imports. Coveney told the Irish Times that he hopes Ireland will sell about 50-100 million euros ($59.5 million-$119.3 million) of meat in the U.S. market in 2015.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) informed the Irish government of the move in December after conducting an audit from June 30-July 7, 2014.


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