US Relaxes European Meat Imports

WASHINGTON, DC-President Bush seems to agree with the popular television jingle that sings, "Gimme my baby back, baby back, baby back." He is reinstating the importation of Danish baby back pork ribs in time for the American barbecue season. However, opponents to the action argue Bush may be allowing more than foreign pork into the country.

The importation restrictions were set to prohibit foot-and-mouth disease, which ravaged Europe during the past several months, forcing many countries to slaughter nearly all hoofed animals, from entering the country. The restrictions have been lifted for Denmark, Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden. These ten countries have been deemed free of the disease.

The initial restriction hit Denmark's economy the hardest because the US is one of the largest importers of Danish pork. Canadian officials have also recently relaxed their restrictions.

Another major health concern surrounding the importation of foreign meat is the possibility of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) infecting the population. Researchers still know very little about the human variant of mad cow disease; however, they believe people become infected with the neurological disorder after eating tainted beef. The 100th victim of vCJD recently died in Britain.

President Bush signed the Animal Disease Risk Assessment, Prevention, and Control Act of 2001 last week to create a commission of agriculture, health, and safety officials who make sure the government is doing as much as possible to keep such health hazards outside of American borders.

The USDA also will increase inspections at airports to prevent travelers from unwittingly bringing the foot-and-mouth virus into the US on their clothing and shoes. Hundreds of new inspectors will use teams of dogs to sniff luggage for contraband food as well.

Baby back ribs were coined by the Danish meat industry 20 years ago as a method of selling meat they considered scrap. Half of the baby back ribs sold in the US are from Danish farms.

The US has been free of foot-and-mouth since 1929.

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