Category: Archive

Irish, EU fight U.S. ban on food imports

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Susan Falvella-Garraty

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The foot-and-mouth crisis is knocking the stuffing out of the Irish bacon import business, but fans of Bailey’s Irish Crème can imbibe in peace — at least for now.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is throwing up barriers to a whole range of European food products because of the spread of the disease that affects cloven-hoofed animals, including cattle, sheep and pigs, but is not considered a danger to humans.

But some quick footwork by Irish diplomats in Washington has prevented the boom being lowered on several Irish products worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year in exports to the U.S. market.

And this week, Ireland’s unilateral effort was given a helping hand, albeit another Irish one, from the European Union.

The EU is stepping up its efforts to loosen U.S. restrictions on the importing of animal products and the union’s commissioner for health and consumer protection, Irishman David Byrne, will meet with U.S. Department of Agriculture officials in an effort to persuade the U.S. to adopt a regional approach toward food import bans, as opposed to a blanket ban aimed at Europe in total.

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Byrne is arguing that the U.S. should allow products in from countries where no infection from foot-and-mouth disease has been identified or where containment efforts have been implemented. Ireland, South and North, would fall into the latter category.

The Republic of Ireland alone exports hundreds of millions of dollars worth of dairy and meat products yearly to the United States.

Irish diplomats in Washington lobbied successfully in recent days for the three top Irish exports to the U.S. to be exempted from the ban. Those exempted include popular cream liqueurs such as Bailey’s Irish Crème. Also exempted are Chocolate Crumb and Casein, a milk bi-product used as a thickening agent.

Exemption came prior to Ireland recognizing its first confirmed case of foot-and-mouth disease on a farm in County Louth last Thursday.

As the Echo went to press, Irish sausages, rashers, and butter were still banned from the U.S.

Meanwhile, the EU has rescinded its ban on Northern Ireland livestock exports to other EU countries. The first outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Ireland was north of the border in County Armagh.

The North’s agriculture minister, Brid Rodgers, said the EU move marked an "enormous marketing opportunity."

The EU retained its ban on the exporting of livestock and meat products from the Republic of Ireland, where there has been only the one confirmed outbreak, and Britain, where there have been hundreds of confirmed cases of the disease.

The Irish government is continuing significant efforts at the border with Northern Ireland to restrict the flow of livestock.

Meanwhile, people traveling from Ireland to the U.S. will be required, until further notice, to fill out declarations at the arrival airport as to whether they were recently on a farm while abroad.

USDA inspectors at airports will decide whether to disinfect any footwear the travelers have with them.

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