Last week, a five-year-old cow at a farm in County Louth was picked up as a possible risk – although it had not been taken to slaughter, or entered the food chain.
Beef producers have only just regained access to the US market, after a 16-year hiatus for European imports since the BSE crisis in the late 1990s.
Ireland was the first country to gain full access earlier this year and, soon after, ABP Food Group became the first European company to agree a contract to supply beef to the US, in a deal worth up to €15 million. Deliveries started in March and it has been supplying more than 20 Sysco outlets in the New York and Boston area since then.
The firm declined to comment on the suspected BSE case. However, Irish Food promotion body Bord Bía insisted the issue would not affect exports. Trade marketing specialist Henry Horkan called it, "a minor bump in the road".
He said: "We’re confident that this isolated case will not adversely impact the reputation of Irish beef among its European and international customer base."
Horkan said it was unfortunate, coming after the recent decision of the World Organisation for Animal Health to award Ireland ‘negligible risk status’. However, Ireland would retain its ‘controlled risk status’ under which it continued to trade successfully in Europe and internationally. Said Horkan: "It is this ‘control risk status’ that has also enabled Ireland to achieve access to the US, Japan and to secure the recent lifting of the beef ban in China."
The Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine said it was undertaking a full examination. A spokesman added: "It is important to note that there is no food safety risk here and it is our rigorous control systems which identified this case."
The results are expected later this week.