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WASHINGTON - The Mexican Ministry of Agriculture late yesterday announced that it will resume imports of U.S. boneless beef from animals less than 30 months old. The annoucement comes two months after Mexico stopped all imports of U.S. beef products and live animals after a case of mad cow disease in Washington state.
According to a statement, Mexico will allow imports of beef from U.S. facilities okayed by the Mexican government that process only animals under 30 months of age or that employ acceptable segregation procedures. Cattle age can be determined by records or dentition. Mexico won't yet allow imports of beef derived by advanced meat recovery, mechanically deboned beef, beef trimmings, or ground beef.
Until March 15, entry points will be restricted to eight instead of the normal 12 points, and hours will be limited to 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily.
The Ministry of Agriculture added that it will initiate a risk analysis for other products besides boxed beef.
"We are encouraged that the government of Mexico will seek to restore limited imports of U.S. boneless beef products," American Meat Institute president J. Patrick Boyle said. "However, we believe full trade in all beef products and in live animals from the U.S. should be restored swiftly."
According to Boyle, the United States has taken extraordinary measures to ensure its beef is safe: "We urge the Mexican government -- and all trading partners -- to adopt trade policies based on the facts and on sound science. Trade in cattle and beef by BSE minimal risk nations like the U.S. and Canada is well within the parameters of guidelines issued by the Office of International Epizootics. It is time that all nations began operating within OIE's guidelines."
"Mexico is our second-largest export market for beef and beef products. We are very pleased that today’s announcement begins the resumption of this trade," said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman. "I want to thank Secretary Usabiaga for his strong leadership in resuming trade today and hope that his example will be followed by our other trading partners."
In other beef news, the U.S. government has launched a criminal probe into whether records may have been falsified in the nation's only case of BSE, according to the USDA's inspector general. In a separate investigation, the General Accounting Office is looking into the feed industry's compliance with a FDA rule with the goal of keeping the infectious protein believed to cause the disease out of cattle feed. The criminal investigation is progressing parallel to a noncriminal review of the USDA's response to the BSE case, Phyllis Fong, the department's inspector general, told a House subcommittee. Fong said the criminal investigation concentrates on whether the infected Holstein cow really was a "downer" that couldn't stand or walk when it was slaughtered Dec. 9 in Washington state.