Italian beef will be allowed to return to China as soon as the two countries agree a protocol establishing the health and safety requirements, Italy's ministry of agriculture announced.
Beijing banned imported beef from Italy in 2001, citing safety concerns. Its decision to reconsider follows a visit by Chinese officials in September to inspect Italian meat production facilities, as well as months of lobbying by Italy's agricultural authorities.
“After 16 years we'll export quality Italian beef to China again,” said Agriculture Minister Maurizio Martina. “After the end of the ban on pork last year and on oranges in early 2017, we have overcome another historic hurdle.”
Last September China approved imports of pork from Italy for the first time since 1999 after Rome allayed its concerns about swine vesicular disease, a virus similar to foot-and-mouth that was first identified on Italian farms. And in April, China signed off on imports of blood oranges, one of Sicily's most successful products.
Meanwhile in October China ended a ban on European mouldy cheeses, including Italian Gorgonzola, after receiving guarantees that the bacteria used to produce them was safe.
China is becoming one of the fast-growing market for Italy's signature products, as incomes rise and the appetite for Western foods spreads.
It has been a record year for Italian food exports, with Italy expected to sell the world more than €40 billion of edible goods in 2017, led by wine, cheese and cold cuts.