OIE upgrades U.S. BSE status

Jun 3, 2013

The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) last week announced at the 81st World Assembly of national delegates in Paris that the U.S. is considered to have the lowest possible risk of Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in its cattle population.

This “negligible risk” designation by the international standardsetting body follows a thorough assessment of the BSE-related risk in the U.S. by an OIE committee of experts. The committee’s recommendation that OIE grants the U.S. negligible BSE risk status is a clear reflection of the effective BSE surveillance and mitigation measures that have been in place in the U.S. for many years and the extremely low incidence of the disease in the U.S. cattle herd, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

“This decision by the OIE should clear away any remaining concerns that some countries have about the risk associated with importing beef and beef products from the United States. We think the decision announced by the OIE today should provide a number of beef importing countries with a reason to reevaluate their requirements for beef imports from the United States,” USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng said.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the decision will help with export growth.

“I am very pleased with OIE’s decision to grant the United States negligible risk status for BSE. This is a significant achievement that has been many years in the making for the United States, American beef producers and businesses, and federal and state partners who work together to maintain a system of interlocking safeguards against BSE that protect our public and animal health. This decision demonstrates OIE’s belief that both our surveillance for, and safeguards against, BSE are strong. U.S. beef and beef products are of the highest quality, wholesome and produced to the highest safety standards in the world,” Vilsack said.

“Last year, exports of U.S.-origin beef and beef products totaled $5.5 billion. With our negligible risk classification from the OIE, we have a strong foundation in place to continue increasing exports of U.S.-origin beef and beef products. In doing so, we will continue to press trading partners to base their decisions on science, consistent with international standards. U.S. food and agricultural exporters and consumers worldwide benefit when countries adopt science-based international standards,” he added.

During this year’s session, the World Assembly of national delegates recognized Bulgaria and Costa Rica as having ‘controlled risk’ status with regard to BSE; in addition to the U.S., Israel, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands and Slovenia were recognized as having a ‘negligible BSE risk.’ National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President-Elect Bob McCan, a cattleman from Victoria, Tx, also applauded the decision.

“This announcement by OIE’s Scientific Commission is very positive news for U.S. cattle producers. The U.S. being classified as negligible risk for BSE by the OIE further solidifies the fact that the safety and health of our cattle and our beef is a top priority for American cattlemen and women. With the implementation of multiple interlocking safeguards by the U.S. beef industry and our partners, we have successfully been able to prevent BSE from becoming a threat to the U.S. beef supply, which remains the safest in the world. The vote by the OIE, an internationally recognized, standardsetting body, is proof that the science-based mitigation measures in place in the United States effectively protect our public and animal health.

“This announcement is an important step forward in increasing export opportunities for U.S. cattle producers. This is a significant achievement for the United States, our beef producers and federal and state partners who have successfully collaborated on this issue.”

This year, the assembly has added peste des petits ruminants and classical swine fever to the list of diseases for which Member Countries can apply for official recognition of their disease-free status.

The official status of all the countries that already had an officially recognized status remained unchanged.

New zones were recognized as officially free from foot and mouth disease (FMD), in Argentina, Bolivia and Peru.

OIE endorsed the national control program for FMD submitted by Bolivia.

In 2012, OIE members validated the application of an official procedure for official recognition of countries’ African horse sickness status. This year, the assembly recognized, for the first time, 59 countries as being free from the disease.

The assembly gave special attention to the exceptional nature of the influenza A(H7N9) episode in the People’s Republic of China in April 2013. The latest available information, delivered to the assembly by the delegate of China, and the results of the recent OIE expert mission to China, were presented to member countries with a view to preparing measures to try to prevent any worldwide spread of the virus in animals. — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor