THE guns of the long transatlantic beef war are silenced. Last year the European Union more than doubled its quota of American beef imports (so long as it is not treated with hormones) and America removed punitive duties on imports of Roquefort cheese. The Americans should soon ease a ban on beef imports imposed in 1997 to prevent the spread of mad cow disease. In November the EU accepted the American practice of decontaminating meat with lactic acid. A final skirmish, over American beef fat, could soon be settled through plans to allow imports of tallow for biodiesel (but not for cosmetics).
After decades of trade rows and lawsuits, the truce is meant to clear the air for an ambitious transatlantic free-trade deal. EU officials speak of creating “something approaching a transatlantic single market in goods”. Even a less grand pact could help to re-energise struggling economies on both sides of the Atlantic. It could also help America and Europe to set international trade rules in the face of a fast-rising China.
Last month, Irish food inspectors said they had found horsemeat in beefburgers made by firms in the Irish Republic and the UK, and sold by a number of UK supermarket chains, including Tesco, Iceland, Aldi and Lidl.
Since then, a growing number of UK retailers have recalled processed beef products found to contain horse DNA. The British Retail Consortium’s Helen Dickinson told BBC Radio 4 retailers had been focusing on the swift testing of products. Ms Dickinson added lessons must be learned by “all parts of the food industry” in the UK and Europe.