Beef import restrictions to be lifted

Beef import restrictions brought in to curb the spread of mad cow disease will be lifted from March 2010, following an independent review.

Beef from countries with confirmed cases, such as Britain, has been banned from entering Australia since 2001.

Trade Minister Simon Crean, Health Minister Nicola Roxon and Agriculture Minister Tony Burke announced in a joint statement on Tuesday the government would adjust its import food policies. They said that since 2001, nations with mad cow disease livestock had changed the way they managed beef herds and food production.

“This has allowed countries to trade beef and beef products safely,” Roxon and Burke announced.

Epidemiological researcher Professor John Matthews, who reviewed the beef import restrictions for the government, said the risk of catching bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) remained “extremely low”. Australia’s chief medical officer Jim Bishop said better testing would allow beef to be traded safely.

“People can now identify how best to contain it and so it now brings Australia into line with countries such as the US, Canada and New Zealand to assess each country on a case-by-case basis,” Professor Bishop told ABC Radio.

The government said the new arrangements would not affect Australian food standards requiring beef products to be BSE free.

The import changes come into effect on March 1, 2010.

Source: AAP

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