WASHINGTON – The US Department of Agriculture recently announced the agency will relax a ban on Italian cured-meat products from some regions in Italy beginning May 28.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) determined that some regions and provinces in Italy are free of swine vesicular disease. Once the ruling goes into effect, a wide range of Italian meat and cured meat products will be eligible for importation into the US. Regions included in the relaxed importation ban are Lombardia, Emilia-Romagna, Veneto and Piemont in addition to the provinces of Trento and Bolzano.

Italian prosciutto and mortadella have been imported into the US, but a wide range of products have been banned. USDA maintained a ban on some cured pork products from Italy because of swine vesicular disease, which is fairly heat resistant and can survive a long time in salted, dried and smoked meat products.

"Based on an assessment of the animal health status of these areas, which we made available to the public for review and comment through a previous notice of availability, the Administrator has determined that the importation of pork or pork products from these areas presents a low risk of introducing swine vesicular disease into the United States," APHIS said. "This determination is based on our review of the documentation submitted by the government of Italy in support of its request and the findings of our own animal health risk evaluation."

Products from USDA-approved producers can be exported to the US. The biggest beneficiary of the relaxed ban will be salami.

Assica, a trade association representing Italian meat and sausage industries, called the decision an "historic event" in local news reports. The meat and sausage industries lose an estimated 250 million euros annually because of the ban, according to Assica.