A final rule issued Friday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) aligns America’s rules for importing cattle with those set by the World Organization for Animal Health (which uses the French acronym OIE).
“This action will bring our bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) import regulations in line with international standards, which call for countries to base their trade policies on the actual risk of animals or products harboring the disease,” says Dr. John Clifford, APHIS Deputy Administrator and Chief Veterinary Officer. “Making these changes will further demonstrate to our trading partners our commitment to international standards and sound science, and we are hopeful it will help open new markets and remove remaining restrictions on U.S. products.”
The European Union has indicated this change will trigger the reopening of its beef markets to U.S. suppliers. American beef has been banned since January 1998.
The rule will take effect 90 days after publication in the Federal Register. Publication is expected soon. When the rule takes effect, APHIS will use the same criteria and categories that the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) uses to identify a country’s BSE risk status. APHIS will base its import policy for a particular country on that country’s risk classification as determined by OIE’s risk evaluation. The rule also allows APHIS to conduct its own assessment when deemed necessary, such as when a country is not yet classified by the OIE for BSE risk and requests that APHIS conduct a risk evaluation using criteria equivalent to that used by OIE.
Controlling imports is only one of several interlocking safeguards to protect against introducing BSE into herds, APHIS points out. Additional measures include a ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban, as BSE surveillance program and a ban on importing “cattle materials” that have carried the BSE agent. The OIE upgraded the U.S. risk classification for BSE to negligible in May 2013.