European Union (EU) is to lift a four-year mad cow disease ban on T-bone after its Food Chain and Animal Health (FCAH) voted here on Wednesday to endorse a relevant proposal filed by the European Commission (EC).
The EC's draft proposal, which calls for raising the age limit to 24 months at which the vertebral column must be removed from beef, got green light on Wednesday from the EU member states in the FCAH Standing Committee.
The approval has thus paved the way for beef on the bone, such as the Italian Fiorentina steak or T-bone steak, to be produced again in the EU.
According to the EC, the official return of the T-bone steak to butcher shops and kitchens in the EU could happen within the next two months after the proposal gets nod from the European Parliament and a final adoption from the EC itself.
In 2001, the EU banned the sales of steaks on the bone from animals aged over 12 months, in a bid to reduce the risk of humans contracting a brain-wasting disease from eating beef infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), known as mad cow disease.
The Fiorentina, a traditional Tuscan favorite, dictates the sirloin cut be from a cow aged between 17 and 22 months old, and include a piece of the backbone.
"This first step towards easing EU BSE measures is a positive reflection of how far we have come in the battle against the disease," said Markos Kyprianou, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection.
"It is not a move that was taken lightly. The (European) Commission drew on the soundest scientific knowledge, examined the statistical evidence and discussed this intensively with Member States and the European Parliament," he added.
The EC said experts found a "significant decline in the number of positive BSE cases detected in the EU over the past few years and the age of those positive cases has steadily increased."
A rare but fatal form of the disease in humans, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, is linked to eating meat products contaminated with BSE and was blamed for about 150 deaths, most of them in Britain, beginning in 1995.
EU experts last week also issued a "satisfactory" progress report on the containment of mad cow disease in Britain, raising prospects that the ban on British beef exports may soon be lifted.
The ban was imposed in 1996 when it became clear there was a link between mad cow disease in cattle and a deadly human equivalent.
The incidence of BSE in Britain has dropped from 37,280 cases in 1992 to 342 last year.