Reuters UK and other major news outlets are reporting the decision by European Union food safety experts to lift the 10-year ban on British beef exports to the EU.

The ban was put in place in 1996 when bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) spread throughout Britain. Approximately 150 people who ate infected cow parts developed Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, the human version of BSE.

Reuters said the EU ban "ravaged Britain's beef industry, which saw its last full year of exports in 1995 when shipments to the bloc amounted to some 274,000 tonnes, worth 520 million pounds at the time. The main market was France."

Margaret Beckett, British farm and environment minister, released a statement saying: "This is excellent news for the British beef industry. This EU decision is a vindication of the controls on BSE and our efforts to eradicate the disease."

Reuters said BSE cases have fallen sharply in Britain from a peak of 37,280 in 1992 to 161 in the first 10 months of 2005. A main condition for lifting the ban was for annual cases of cattle affected with the disease to be fewer than 200 per million.

SOURCE: Reuters.