A trade ban on Dutch beef was enforced by the US in 1997 after an outbreak of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) – more commonly known as mad cow disease.
Lifting the trade ban has come after US health inspectors ran an audit on the Dutch beef system from 13 July to 23 July in 2015.
During the audit, conducted by the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), the US health body identified several deficiencies in the Dutch beef system that caused roadblocks to the reopening of trade. The deficiencies included issues with sanitation controls that fell below US standards, as well as the implementation of a post-mortem inspection system the Dutch government failed to inform the US about.
The US told the Netherlands trade would not be resumed without changes to these weaknesses and the Dutch took corrective action to improve food safety monitoring at its beef plants.
These changes appeased concerns health officials had over the Dutch beef system. In a letter to the Netherlands chief veterinary officer, Dr Christianne Bruschke, the US confirmed it would resume trade with Holland on 18 February 2016.
The amount of beef the Netherlands will export to the US is not known, and it’s still unclear how much value it will generate for Dutch beef producers.
However, senior figures in Europe said the deal was a step in the right direction and hoped it paved the way for more countries to boost trade with the US. Speaking in Brussels after the announcement, Copa-Cogeca’s secretary-general Pekka Pesonen, said: “This is welcome news and gives a positive signal to the free trade talks between the EU and US – TTIP [Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership].”
“Until now, only limited quantities of European beef have entered the US market and we have been calling for exports to be stepped up. This should give hope to other member states waiting to export their beef to the US.”
The new was also welcomed by the EU’s commissioner for agriculture and rural affairs Phil Hogan, who said: “Opening the US market to Dutch beef provides a further export outlet for our high-quality EU products. Unlocking technical barriers to exports is part of our diplomatic offensive to drive exports and find new markets for EU producers.”
Cecilia Malmström, the EU commissioner for trade, used the news to attack policies of other countries that ban beef on disease fears that go beyond the recommendations of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
“In times when we are working hard to build a new partnership for trade and investment, keeping old unnecessary obstacles makes no sense. I am glad we are going in the right direction in this respect and hope that the Dutch beef producers will be able to benefit from the new market opportunities very soon.”