BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- The European Union executive warned Tuesday that beef prices will be high this year largely because of restrictions on importing from Brazil, the main source of Europe's imported beef.
The EU introduced stricter import rules earlier this year, which limited the number of Brazilian farms that met EU animal health standards and could export to Europe.
Brazil has warned it may file a complaint against the European Union at the World Trade Organization, claiming the rules are an unfair barrier to free trade.
''Beef prices are currently high, in part due to the recent tight cattle supply from Brazil and Argentina,'' the European Commission said.
Imports had increased last year. But the EU wants to keep its livestock free of foot-and-mouth disease. And the European Commission said imports will probably slow this year due to the restrictions, imposed because of fears Brazil had had not done enough to check that cattle were free of the disease.
The EU demands cattle must be disease-free and located in a foot-and-mouth-free state 90 days before slaughter. The slaughter must be in a facility approved by the EU, and only matured and de-boned meat is allowed to be exported to the EU.
Foot-and-mouth disease, which also strikes other cloven-hoofed animals like sheep, pigs and goats, is a viral illness that can be spread through even minimal contact with infected animals, farm equipment or meat. It can be fatal to animals, but does not harm humans.
Food prices across the world are increasing as rising incomes in booming economies such as Brazil, India, Russia and China have pushed up demand for meat and grain.