8 Mar 2010

Australia back-flips on beef from BSE countries

9:39 pm on 8 March 2010

The Australian government has reversed an earlier decision to allow beef imports from countries previously affected by mad cow disease (also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE).

The ABC reports only New Zealand beef will be accepted during the two years it will take to reassess the decision.

Australia lifted the blanket ban on beef imports at the start of the month despite concerns the move could hurt Australia's beef industry.

But its Agriculture Minister Tony Burke has put that decision on hold to allow for a full import risk analysis to be conducted.

Mr Burke says his intervention was in response to significant community concern about lifting the ban.

"Certainly it is an unusual situation for a minister to personally intervene. The level of community concern, I believe, has been sufficient to add that level of formality to the process."

Mr Burke says the assessment will take two years to complete and during that time only beef from New Zealand can be imported.