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Russia Says It’s Set to Lift a Ban on British Beef Imports

Russia may resume imports of British beef as it’s set to lift a ban put in place after outbreaks of mad cow disease.

The import restrictions were first put in place in 1986, Russia’s food safety service Rosselkhoznadzor said in a statement on its website yesterday. The U.K.’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs said in a statement on its website today that the ban has been in place for 16 years.

The U.K. government expects written confirmation, that the ban will be lifted, from Russian officials within the next few days. The development follows negotiations led by Defra’s chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens, the department said in the statement. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, known as BSE or mad cow disease, has “virtually disappeared in the U.K.,” Defra said.

The agreement is worth 80 million pounds ($127 million) over the next three years, Defra said. There were six cases of BSE diagnosed in cattle last year in the U.K., compared with 37,000 in 1992, according to the Food Standards Agency. The U.K. is the European Union’s fourth-largest beef producer, after France, Germany and Italy, according to data from the 27-country bloc.

“British food is recognized around the world for using quality ingredients, for rigorous production standards, and for reliable traceability,” Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said in the statement.

British beef producers still will have to comply with Russian sanitary norms, Aleksei Alekseenko, Rosselkhoznadzor spokesman, said by phone in Moscow today. “We, from our side, opened the doors.”

The move comes after two U.K. meat processors improved their operations, following inspections in February, Alekseenko said.

Mad cow disease is a transmissible brain disease that is fatal for cattle, according to the World Health Organization. Eating meat from BSE-infected animals has been tied to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, an incurable human illness that destroys brain tissue.

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