The EU Commission has approved an application for Official Brucellosis Free (OBF) status for Northern Ireland, agriculture minister Michelle O’Neill has confirmed.
The minister said that attaining OBF status for cattle is “a highly significant milestone” in the history of disease eradication in the Province.
The Sinn Fein minister said in a statement that for the first time in decades, not only is Northern Ireland free of brucellosis, but the whole island of Ireland “may now be regarded as being free from this devastating disease”.
She added: “Official freedom is a remarkable achievement considering the grip that brucellosis had on the farming community just a few years ago.
“I am acutely aware that this disease led to very distressing circumstances for many farmers, whose herds had to be depopulated to stop its spread.
“EU Commission approval of our brucellosis free status signals that the partnership approach that has been adopted in dealing with this devastating disease has worked.”
The minister said relaxing the testing regime for brucellosis will result in reduced administration, sampling and testing costs.
However, the EU Trade Directive requires that a brucellosis surveillance testing programme must continue for five years after OBF status is granted to ensure continuing disease freedom.
Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer Colin Hart welcomed the news but added that “the industry must continue to avoid complacency”.