China resumed beef imports from the United States on Thursday, ending a two-and-a-half-year ban prompted by fears of mad cow disease.
The import resumption applies to boneless cuts from US cows under the age of 30 months, said the Ministry of Agriculture in a statement posted on its website on Friday.
The ban was lifted with effect from Thursday. The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine the Chinese inspection authority will issue specific regulations concerning restored imports, it said.
China, like many other nations such as Japan and South Korea, closed its doors to US beef in December 2003, when the first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad-cow disease, was discovered in the US.
In some cases, humans who have eaten beef have died from Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a variant of BSE believed to come from contaminated meat.
The US has lobbied Asian countries to lift the ban, which has been a boon to Australian beef producers.
Chinese and US officials met in May to discuss lifting the ban as Washington was anxious not to be locked out of the growing market.
In 2003, before BSE was reported, the US exported 12,422 metric tons of beef to China worth US$28.4 million.
In April, the Chinese government announced its intention to lift the ban on US beef imports. The US Department of Agriculture sent a high-level negotiating team to China twice in efforts to get an agreement on specific terms for US beef exports.
Vice Premier Wu Yi, who led a trade delegation to the US in April, earlier said there would be conditions attached to the resumption of US beef imports.
Japan announced in June that it may also soon lift its block on US beef.
(China Daily July 1, 2006)