Australia has formally recognised the "sanitary quality of Roquefort cheeses", a move which is set to facilitate the import of the products, made from raw sheep's milk, into the country.

After years of debate over the risk of bacterial contamination, the Australian market was opened to Roquefort in September 2005.

However, an agreement covering a three-year period and signed in Paris yesterday (15 December) by French agriculture minister, Michel Barnier and Australia's ambassador to France,  David Ritchie, now adds an official seal of approval to the way the cheeses are made and to French food safety standards in this area.

The French ministry said the agreement had been made possible "thanks to the commitment of producers of goat's milk and Roquefort to respect very high microbiological norms".

It added that this "illustrates the capacity of the sector to "guarantee food safety while maintaining a world-renowned gastronomic heritage".