CHINA – China has reached a health and safety agreement with France to import beef from the European country’s meat facilities, reported Reuters citing information from a French industry official.

China has conducted inspections on certain meat plants in France and certification from Beijing is required before any meat is shipped.

France will export chilled and frozen beef to China starting September, pending slaughterhouse licences being approved, according to Interbev, a French meat industry body.

But Marc Feunteun, chairman of the French Meat Export association, said he hoped to see the first containers heading for China by August.

“Until the visit of Macron, I would have said it would take another two years. Now there’s political will,” he said.

“Chinese officials are really under pressure to get this done.”

French President Emmanuel Macron, during his visit to Beijing in January indicated that French beef would reach the Chinese market within six months.

“Good news for the beef industry in France, to which the Chinese market is opening. Six months after the commitment made with President Xi Jinping, the result is recorded,” said Macron in a statement on twitter.

China, the world’s second largest beef importer, granted Ireland’s beef access to the Chinese market last month, two years after Beijing first lifted its ban on Irish beef.

China’s top beef suppliers are Brazil and Australia.

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)

European nations have been in an embargo since 1990s following the Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis, a fatal neurodegenerative disease in cattle that may be passed to humans who have eaten infected flesh.

The BSE crisis led to the European Union banning exports of British beef with effect from March 1996 but this was lifted on 1 May 2006.

Since then, France has been a subject of criticism internationally especially its surveillance systems for failing to report BSE cases claimed to have killed 9 people in the country.

Despite the few reported cases, there had never been a ban on French beef or basic safety precautions to stop the food chain becoming contaminated.