EU relaxs restrictions on South American beef
The EU expert veterinary panel has further relaxed beef import restrictions on fresh meat from Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.
The European Commission said that the panel agreed that the South American nations had met the necessary health regulations and were in a position to comply with EU food safety standards.
A Commission statement said: "Recently, the competent authorities of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay have made considerable efforts to improve the animal health situation in their respective countries, and in particular as regards foot-and-mouth disease."
The decision will allow two provinces in Argentina - Neuquen and Rio Negro - to trade with EU countries. The states of Parana and Sao Paulo in Brazil and all of Paraguay have been authorised to export de-boned and matured beef to European countries.
The EU suspended all beef exports from Brazil in January, citing food safety and traceability concerns. Since relaxing those restrictions in February, the EU has only allowed beef exports from 106 approved Brazilian farms.
A shortage in the availability of beef in Europe means that the EU has been keen to reintroduce beef exports from South America, provided safety standards are met.
Mariann Fischer Boel, member of the European Commission responsible for agriculture and rural development said: "One issue of immediate importance, which we need to resolve as soon as we can, is the near-disappearance of Brazilian beef from the European market.
"As you know very well, fewer than 100 Brazilian holdings are currently permitted to export beef to the European Union, because of our concerns over traceability. This has caused serious supply problems for parts of our beef processing industry.
"Of course, it's out of the question to compromise over our food safety standards. European citizens would be outraged if we did so. All beef imports will always be subject to very stringent conditions.
"On the other hand, when those standards are respected, beef imports from Brazil are an important element of our trade relationships. What we must do now is to help the Brazilians to meet the standards."