Ireland becomes first EU nation to be allowed to resume beef exports to US since mad cow scare

LONDON – The United States will permit imports of beef from Ireland, the first European Union country allowed to resume sales since the mad cow disease scare over 15 years ago, officials said Monday.

Simon Coveney, Ireland’s minister for agriculture, food and the marine, issued a statement announcing that access to the lucrative U.S. market will be restored after American authorities inspected Ireland’s beef production systems last year. Authorities estimate annual exports could be worth at least 25 million euros ($30 million).

The U.S. lifted its ban on beef from the EU in March 2014, but inspections are necessary before exports are allowed to resume.

The European Commission praised the move, saying it sent a positive signal to other EU member states and that the “re-opening of the market is a welcome first step to abolish the disproportionate and unjustified” U.S. ban that followed the onset of the crisis in the 1990s.

“It is now desirable that the (U.S.) acts expeditiously to extend the approval to the rest of the European Union and to fully bring their import conditions in line with international standards,” the statement said.

Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), is fatal to cows and can cause a fatal human brain disease in people who eat meat from infected cows.