European Commission officials will fly to Brazil next week to assess the controls the country has in place to prevent the spread of foot and mouth.
The EU banned some Brazilian beef imports in October following an outbreak of foot and mouth in the Mato Grosso do Sul region.
The embargo covers meat from three regions in Brazil where cases of the disease have been confirmed.
Brazilian officials visited Brussels in December to outline to the Commission the steps being taken to control the spread of the disease.
The Commission is sending a delegation to Brazil on January 24 to check that effective measures are actually in place, on a mission that is expected to take two weeks to complete.
Peter Hardwick, the Meat and Livestock Commission’s Brussels-based international manager, said: “The European Commission will look, first hand, at Brazil’s animal identification and traceability programmes to ensure that it is confident that measures to restrict movements are sufficient to be effective in controlling foot and mouth.
“The Commission will report its findings to the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health next month. The Committee will then decide what, if any, further action needs to be taken.”
The ban could run indefinitely, said Hardwick. “It is open-ended and the EU’s current status on Brazilian beef imports remains unchanged.”
But he added: “If no further cases are confirmed in affected regions, then the ban could end in as little as three months. It’s possible, but not expected.”
Although the disease is not spreading to other parts of Brazil, cases are continuing to be confirmed in affected regions. The ban applies to all deboned and matured bovine meat slaughtered on and after September 30, 2005.
Rachael Porter