The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is seeking comments on a proposal to complete efforts to modernize the country’s import rules related to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or “mad cow” disease.
“This proposal is an important step forward in our efforts to bring our import regulations in line with science-based, international animal health standards,” said John Clifford, APHIS deputy administrator and chief veterinary officer, in a statement.
“The proposal will help ensure we continue to provide strong protections against BSE, continue to make science-based decisions, and fully support safe trade in bovine commodities,” he said. “As we continue to protect the health of the U.S. cattle industry, this proposal will also assist us in future negotiations to reopen important trade markets that remain closed to U.S. beef.”
The proposed rule would not change other measures that are currently in place in the United States, the agency said. For animal health, these include the Food and Drug Administration's ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban and a stringent BSE surveillance program.
Under the proposed rule, APHIS would adopt the same criteria and categories that the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) uses to identify a country’s BSE risk status—negligible, controlled, and undetermined risk. APHIS would base its import policy for a particular country on that country’s risk classification as determined by OIE’s risk evaluation.
The rule would also allow 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. All countries would be considered by APHIS to have an undetermined BSE risk unless officially recognized as either negligible or controlled risk.
The OIE determines a country’s risk status based on actions the country has taken to manage the risk of the disease. These actions include instituting a strong ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban, strictly controlling imports of animals and animal products from countries of undetermined risk, and conducting appropriate surveillance.
The proposed rule may be found on the APHIS Website