An Australian ban on beef products from 30 European countries came into force on Monday with barely a whimper, as supermarkets cleared "minuscule" amounts of affected products from their shelves and delicatessens brandished "made in Australia" tags on their bockwurst and pates.
The ban on beef products and foods containing beef from European Union, Eastern European and Scandinavian countries, spurred by concerns over mad cow disease, mainly affected high-end delicatessen products, industry officials said.
David Palmer of meat industry authority Meat and Livestock Australia said only about 1,000 tonnes a year - 0.2 percent of beef products consumed annually in Australia - came from Europe. The bulk was home-grown.
"Selling meat to Australia is like selling coal to Newcastle or tequila to Mexico," Palmer said.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Monday that the Federal Health Department was considering also banning European cosmetics containing beef products, such as anti-aging creams and capsules made from gelatin.
"Roo" meat exporters, meanwhile, looked forward to increasing kangaroo steak sales in European countries hit by mad cow disease, and Australian beef exporters said they expected to steal some global market share from their European competitors.
"Whenever there is a meat scare in Europe, kangaroo meat demand goes up," said John Kelly of the Kangaroo Industries Association of Australia.
The Australian authorities announced on Friday they were extending a 1996 ban on British beef products to 29 other European countries as outbreaks of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), spread to the Continent.
Experts fear BSE could be linked to the variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which affects people.
DELICATESSENS SHRUG AT BAN
Health authorities in Australia and New Zealand also advised supermarkets and grocery stores to remove European beef products from their shelves, including Dutch frankfurters, Croatian pates, Danish corned beef, German bockwursts, Hungarian liver pate and Spanish soups.
On Sydney's Liverpool Street, home to the Don Quijote and Flamenco Vive restaurants, Latin nightclub La Campana and Spanish-style delicatessens, salamis and smoked meats hung as normal and store owners shrugged at the ban.
"Most of our beef is Australian, prepared here by Spaniards, Croatians and so on," said Ramon Regueiro, manager of the Torres Cellars and Delicatessen, who estimated 95 percent of beef-based delicatessen products in Australia used local ingredients.
"It's pretty quiet today but I don't think that has anything to do with the ban."
Lisa Amor, spokeswoman for Australia's No. 2 supermarket operator Coles Myer Ltd , said the firm had taken "a minuscule amount" of products off its shelves as a result.
A spokeswoman for Woolworths Ltd , Australia's largest grocer, said the chain was still working through all its canned meat products making sure none were on the banned list.
"We're a nation of fresh beef eaters and Australian beef is cheaper. So we're not expecting it (the list) to be a huge chunk of the products that we sell," she said.