US authorities have lifted an embargo on French beef imports after 19 years, the French agriculture ministry has said this evening.

France is the fourth EU country to have its beef re-admitted to the US market after a 1998 ban imposed because of fears over bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad cow disease.

In 2015 Ireland was the first European country to be granted full access for its beef in the US market following the ban.

Lithuania and the Netherlands have also been granted access to the US beef market.

The EU Commission welcomed the move, calling it "excellent news for French producers". It was also an illustration that efforts to eradicate BSE in the EU had borne fruit, it said in a statement.

The French ministry warned, however, that administrative hurdles meant it could take time for beef exports to the US to resume.

"We are pleased with this first step, but this doesn't mean that exports will start tomorrow," the ministry said.