Canada has reopened its market to beef from the European Union, 19 years after it blocked all imports because of mad cow disease.

According to release from the European Commission in Brussels, Canada has reauthorized the import of beef from 19 member states.

The commission said it is working with member states to resume exports of beef and re-establish ties to the Canadian market.

EU beef producers have seen reduced opportunities this year because of the closing of Russian markets to their products.

According to the European Commission, Canada audited meat inspection systems in four EU states before agreeing that the EU had taken steps to ensure bovine spongiform encephalopathy had been eliminated from European animals.

Beef from the EU has been banned since 1996 because of BSE, which can affect the health of humans who eat infected beef.

As well as blocking the export of meat from Portugal and the United Kingdom, two of the countries most affected by BSE, the EU brought in legislation in 2000 to create a testing system and enforce laws against allowing sick animals into the food system. 

"This market opening also sends an important signal to the EU's trading partners worldwide that EU beef is safe, and that imports of EU beef should be swiftly resumed," the commission said in a news release.

Canadian beef has been banned from EU markets because of use of hormones in raising cattle in Canada, but a deal was reached on the issue during free trade talks.

Canada is now open to beef from: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.