COSTA Rica’s beef industry hasproved itself sanitary enough for U.S.standards, the Ministry of Agriculture andLivestock announced this week. Beef willnow go directly from Costa Rica to consumersin the United States without a U.S.inspection.Costa Rican beef was previously subjectedto such inspections.The decision will further open theU.S. market to Costa Rican beef producers,said Trade Minister Manuel González.In addition, for the first time, packagedmeat products from Costa Rican meatgiant CoopeMontecillos will enter underthe company’s brand name, said cooperativespokesman Carlos Campos.“We expect to see even more growthin the short term with this accreditation,and the Central American Free-TradeAgreement with the United States(CAFTA),” González said.Officials estimate Costa Rica willexport14,000 kilograms of beef, valued at$32 million, in 2005. Beef exports to theUnited States and Puerto Rico fell from13,000 kilograms in 2003 to 9,500 in2004, after CoopeMontecillos lost itsaccreditation for direct export.The stricter standards stemmed fromthe closure of the U.S. market becauseof the so-called Mad Cow disease scarein 2003.Costa Rica as a country has not beenaccredited to export beef directly since1995.The new accreditation means theMinistry of Agriculture and LivestockAnimal Health Department will beresponsible for inspecting and certifyingall Costa Rican beef for export.“This reflects the capacity of our professionalsand our system of animalhealth,” said Agriculture MinisterRodolfo Coto.The change will benefit three plants:CoopeMontecillos, Planta El Arreo andProcesadora de Carnes El Rey, whichexports to U.S. food chains includingBurger King.Campos said CoopeMontecillos hasalways met international standards ofquality. Sanitation has improved with thenew accreditation, but the greatestimprovements have been made to trackingcapabilities. In the event authorities findthat meat is contaminated, they can traceit back to its source, he said.