Prompted by fears of mad cow disease, a total ban on the importation of beef products into Australia and New Zealand from thirty European countries was announced today (5 January) in a statement by the joint Food Authority (ANZFA).

Ian Lindenmayer, managing director of ANZFA, admitted that the probability of imported beef products being contaminated with BSE was slim, but that "Australia and New Zealand have one of the safest food supplies in the world - and the current steps are intended to keep it that way." 

As yet, no cases of BSE have been reported in Australia or New Zealand, but the statement revealed that the ban was a direct response to the news that BSE has spread far beyond the UK.

Because Australia does not import fresh beef, the ban will only actually affect a reasonably small number of products, such as corned beef, frankfurters, pâté and soup. These amount to around 1% of the annual beef consumption in the country. 
The authorities have announced several interim measures to deal with the situation until the ban comes into effect. Retailers and consumers have been advised to dump all beef products that derive from Europe and products already in the process of being shipped to Australia and New Zealand will not be allowed to enter.

In response to the spread of the disease, authorities in the EU and other European countries have already banned the use of animal ruminants in livestock feed, thought to be the means by which the disease is transmitted to cattle. The statement by ANZFA proves, however, that there is still a long way to go before the beef industry in Europe can relax.

To read more about ANZFA, in our series "Focus on National Food Standards Authorities" click here.