The ‘final rule’, separate from the current Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks, was made by the USDA in a bid to align its bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) standards with international policies. Rules become effective 90 days after publication in the Federal Register.
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said the final rule "completed efforts to modernise its import regulations for BSE". The country imposed a ban on EU beef in January 1998 on BSE grounds.
Steve Knight from the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service said exporting countries still needed to have their meat inspection systems deemed ‘equivalent’ by the USDA, and all exporting facilities must be USDA-approved.
The European Commission welcomed the decision, which means that EU beef and other bovine products will be allowed for US export for the first time in 16 years.
Speaking last November, Dr John Clifford, deputy administrator and chief veterinary officer for APHIS, said: "This action will bring our BSE import regulations in line with international standards, which call for countries to base their trade policies on the actual risk of animals or products harbouring the disease.
"Making these changes will further demonstrate to our trading partners our commitment to international standards and sound science, and we are hopeful it will help open new markets and remove remaining restrictions on US products."
APHIS said that while consumers can benefit from imports in terms of a broadened choice, and potential price declines due to increased supply, it said it anticipated this rule would have little impact on import volumes, and on US businesses in turn.
In July last year GlobalMeatNews reported that European Union (EU) representatives, travelling to Washington DC for the first round of negotiations with the US to forge a TTIP, had called for early progress on the Americans lifting the ban on EU beef.
The World Organisation for Animal Health (OiE) upgraded the US risk classification for BSE to negligible risk in May 2013.