The US Department of Agriculture this week proposed lifting a ban imports of beef from Uruguay, two years after it was imposed to prevent foot and mouth disease entering the US.

Shortly after foot and mouth disease was reported in some livestock in Uruguay in summer 2001, the US imposed an import ban on all fresh beef. The US has reported no incidence of the extremely infectious disease since 1929.

The USDA now believes it is no longer necessary to ban fresh beef imports from Uruguay, as long as “certain stringent requirements” are met, it said in a Federal Register notice. This will involve all meat shipments being certified by Uruguayan veterinarians as deriving from animals born, bred and slaughtered in areas not affected by foot and mouth.

Officials in Uruguay must also check the cattle before and after slaughter for any sign of infection, Reuters reported. The regulations also set limits on the movement of livestock and determine minimum maturation requirements.

Uruguay's cattle industry suffered a severe FMD outbreak in 2000, but there has been no reported case of foot and mouth in Uruguay since August 2001, after a campaign that included widespread vaccination

The USDA said it would accept public comments on its proposal until 11 April.