The European Commission has to apply a one-year period of restrictions over milk and meat product exports from Romania and Bulgaria in order to protect food safety on the EU market, according to

European experts decided that authorized companies in the Romanian and Bulgarian food industry halt exports of animal products that do not comply with European standards starting January 1, 2007, when the two countries join the Union.

It was decided, though, that production units in line with European standards may avoid the restrictions if sanitary investigators evaluate their guarantees positively.

He decision was made after EU food officials visited Romania and Bulgaria recently. They found certain meat and milk processing units not complying with EU food safety standards.

The two countries will face a transition period to modernize their processing units and improve their systems.

The Union expanded its restrictions on food imports to convince Moscow that the accession of Romania and Bulgaria would not threaten food safety and the health of livestock in Russia. Authorities there have expressed concern about the situation for the past several weeks.

According to the online edition of Evenimentul Zilei, the EC decision does not affect Romanian producers as they focus almost exclusively on the domestic market. But it affects importers from the US and Asia who build up stocks in Romania before selling the products on the single market.