Australia ends import ban on 'B.S.E.' countries

by Bryan Salvage
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SYDNEY — Although Australia’s nine-year ban on beef imports from countries reporting bovine spongiform encephalopathy (B.S.E.) cases was lifted March 1, it will take several months before imported beef products arrive on its supermarket shelves, according to The Australian. What’s more, no countries have yet to apply to send beef to Australia following this lifting of the ban.

According to the new rules, the country of origin must apply to Food Standards Australia New Zealand for permission to export beef to the region. Once the request is received, FSANZ will take a minimum of 20 weeks to assess each application, and it reserves the right to send inspectors to the country of origin for an in-country inspection, further prolonging the waiting period.

Australia banned beef from countries where the brain-wasting disease bovine spongiform encephalopathy occurred in 2001. Only imports of muscle meat, or products of muscle meat, which is thought to not carry B.S.E., will now be permitted into Australia. Fresh meat will also require clearance from Biosecurity Australia. 
Before the bans, most beef imports were in processed products, such as soup and gelatine used in confectionery. The U.S. exported roughly 34 tonnes of beef annually to Australia before several cases of B.S.E. ended the trade in 2001. Australia exports about 280,000 tonnes of beef annually to the U.S.

Changes to the beef import rules were "about aligning our science-based protocol", said Justin Toohey, Australian Red Meat Advisory Council secretary. Australia’s new protocols are “science-based," he added.
Conditions under the new import rules include traceability that is equivalent to or better than Australia's.
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