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New Zealand's BSE-free status wins rule change in Saudi Arabia

New Zealand has successfully argued to lift restrictions in a major export market, Saudi Arabia, which is now relaxing a costly rule that export meat shipments should have spinal cords removed.

Meat New Zealand's Chairman, Jeff Grant, said: "The rule was not logical for New Zealand. We do not have BSE here, and so there was no reason to ask for spinal cords to be removed, which are a risk material in other countries affected by BSE."

Grant says this amendment is a great step for the New Zealand Meat industry: "This is a very positive step to get things back on track. Exports to Saudi Arabia will now be at far less expense to farmers."

In 2001 Saudi Arabia introduced regulations prohibiting importation of offal and carcasses and cuts containing spinal cords, due to global animal disease and food safety scares. Meat New Zealand urged the Government to object to the measures, and to question the ethics of the decision.

Prior to the total ban on spinal cords and offal, Meat New Zealand had also been arguing against Saudi restrictions on shelf life for offal. The restrictions made trade difficult, as the length of time offal could stay on shop shelves was short. Meat New Zealand and Meat and Livestock Australia co-funded the Saudi authorities to do research, which showed shelf life could be safely extended. However, before any changes could be made, Saudi Arabia imposed the total ban on offal.

Since the offal ban has been lifted, trade is recommencing under revised shelf-life conditions. This has allowed steadier trade into Saudi Arabia, one of New Zealand's largest sheepmeat offal markets.

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