Food from Britain says it remains optimistic about the long-term future of Britain's food and drink exports in spite of the foot and mouth outbreak. British meat exports are currently banned by the EU under measures designed to stop the disease spreading. But with the European Commission set to meet on 23 August to discuss easing the ban, FFB marketing and international management director Simon Waring said he did not believe the crisis would damage Britain's reputation as a food exporter. "FFB figures show that for the first quarter of this year exports were up more than 10% on the same period in 2006 to £2.6bn - and that is compared with a record-breaking year," he said. "Obviously the recent outbreak and the resultant export restrictions will have an effect on this growth, but past experience has shown that British food's reputation is highly resilient. "While this is clearly a difficult time for exporters, we are optimistic that exports will weather this latest turbulent period. There are already suggestions the bans could be lifted in some parts of the UK in a matter of weeks, provided there are no further outbreaks, which will significantly improve trade prospects." Waring said UK exporters had much to be proud of - a fact that would be illustrated by this year's Food from Britain Export Awards run in association with The Grocer. There are 11 categories, with winners to be announ­ced on 19 December at the Landmark Hotel in London. To enter visit Foot and mouth's red tape chaos, Letters p58