British beef back on US menus for first time in 20 years

British beef is to be exported to the US from today for the first time in 20 years as a ban put in place after the BSE crisis is lifted.

Wednesday, 30th September 2020, 12:30 pm
Updated Wednesday, 30th September 2020, 5:06 pm
Scottish beef is allowed to be exported to the US for the first time in 20 years.
Scottish beef is allowed to be exported to the US for the first time in 20 years.

Exports of beef from the UK were banned in the US following the outbreak of Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), which became commonly known as Mad Cow Disease, in 1996.

Following inspections by US officials of British beef last year, exports were finally given the go-ahead – with Scottish, English, Welsh and Northern Irish beef all classed as suitable for export.

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The cattle illness is believed to result in variant Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease in some humans who eat infected meat, sparking an outbreak of about 170 cases in the UK in the 1990s.

The first shipment of beef originating from Foyle Food Group in Northern Ireland is to be dispatched to the USA today, with further shipments from across the UK expected to commence in the coming weeks.

The export industry of beef to the US is expected to generate £66 million for the UK economy.

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board called the resumption of exports a "historic moment", while the Scottish meat industry also welcomed the news.

Director Dr Phil Hadley, said: "The US represents an important potential market for our red meat exports and today's first shipment is the result of the hard work and persistence of industry and government to bring about this crucial next step.

"This important milestone will bring a fantastic boost to the sector and we look forward to seeing more of our red meat served up on dinner tables across the US in the months and years to come."

Alan Clarke, chief executive at Quality Meat Scotland, said: “We are delighted that Scotch Beef could soon be on the menu across the Atlantic. Scotch Beef is truly world class in its quality of taste, animal welfare and production standards and this is all down to the processors, butchers and farmers who work tirelessly to uphold these standards across the board.”

The US Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) Audit Report, a crucial step leading to British exporters being able to sell to the US, was published in March 2020, and confirmed that UK meat hygiene systems and controls are of a suitable, equivalent standard for products to be imported to the USA. The report noted that the whole of the UK meets the US’s production requirements.

FSIS inspected premises across the UK between July and August 2019. This inspection visit had in turn been preceded by years of market access and technical discussions between the USA and the UK.

Environment secretary George Eustice said: "Our beef is renowned as some of the best in the world for its high quality, food safety and welfare standards, and this landmark milestone means more people around the globe can enjoy our produce."

Karen Pierce, British Ambassador to the USA, said: “For the first time in over two decades, Americans will have the opportunity to taste the UK’s world-class, delicious beef.

“American consumers already have an appetite for a range of quality British products, including fine cheeses, whisky, salmon and biscuits, and beef is sure to become popular in the States.”

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