Veterinary experts from the 27 EU member states have unanimously agreed to lift a ban on British meat, milk and live animal exports, imposed since 6 August following an outbreak of the highly infectious foot-and-mouth disease.
The EU’s Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, on 23 August, agreed that the ban should be limited to a 10-kilometre surveillance zone around the two farms in Surrey where the outbreak was first discovered in a herd of cattle. They added that exports from the rest of the country were safe thanks to the strict protection measures that had been taken.
The general trade ban, which farmers said was costing them €2.7 million per day, will thus be lifted as of 25 August.
“We have been able to take quick steps to allow trade to resume,” said Commission spokesman Philip Tod, adding: “This has been possible because of the swift action taken by the British authorities.”
The news that the disease is under control will come as a relief to farmers across Europe, as the outbreak had been an unwelcome reminder of the 2001 foot-and-mouth crisis, which hit the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands and France, leading to millions of animals being slaughtered and costing billions of euro.
Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer for the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Fred Landeg said the decision indicated “that the UK has done very well to detect and eliminate and contain this outbreak”.
“We still have to go through further testing in order to be absolutely certain there is no more disease in the surveillance zone, and that work is in hand. But we believe from the investigations that we have currently conducted that the risk of finding any further disease is very low,” he added.
The remaining restrictions will be reviewed at a further meeting of the Standing Committee foreseen on 11 September 2007.