APHIS finalizes BSE ruling
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced its final rule to complete efforts to modernize the agency’s import regulations for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), demonstrating to the international community that the United States is committed to basing its BSE regulations on internationally-accepted scientific literature and standards set by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). According to APHIS, the final regulation will allow for the safe trade of bovines and bovine products, while still protecting the United States from the introduction of BSE.
“This action will bring our 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,” said 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.”
It is important to note that control of imports is only one of several interlocking safeguards against BSE, APHIS clarified in its release. This regulation does not change other measures that are currently in place in the U.S. For animal health, these measures include the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban. A robust BSE surveillance program monitors the health of the U.S. cattle population. Human health is protected by measures that ensure the safety of U.S. beef, the most important of which is the ban on cattle materials that have been shown to carry the BSE agent (known as specified risk materials) from the food supply. In recognition of the strength of these measures in the U.S., the OIE upgraded the U.S. risk classification for BSE to negligible risk in May, 2013.
When this rule takes effect, APHIS will use the same criteria and categories that the World Organization for Animal Health 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.
This action will be published in the Federal Register soon. The rule becomes effective 90 days after publication.
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) was pleased with the announcement.
“The basis of these import regulations, set on internationally-accepted science and the OIE guidelines, is critical in showing that the U.S. is committed to ensuring trade, unfettered by protectionist motivations, and sends a clear message to our trading partners of the value we place on fair trade,” said Scott George, NCBA president and Cody, WY, cattleman. “I am pleased that NCBA has been a leader on this issue since 2003 and that the USDA/APHIS incorporated the comments of cattle producers in finalizing these regulations. These regulations show that cattlemen and women not only talk about market access, but that we stand behind it.”
NCBA said the regulation, also known as the comprehensive BSE rule, brings the U.S. into compliance with international trade standards without compromising the interlocking safeguards against BSE that are currently in place.
“This is great news for the U.S. cattle industry and integral to our efforts to further international trade,” George said. “With these import regulations set, I am confident we will be able to expand our market access and meet international demand for high quality U.S. beef. We greatly appreciate the work of USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and the entire team at USDA/APHIS.” — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor