Earlier this week, the Scientific Commission for the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) notified USDA it is recommending the United States’ BSE risk be upgraded from “controlled” to “negligible,” the lowest risk level in the OIE’s rating system. The change will place the United States in the same category as key export competitors including Argentina, Australia and Brazil, according to ratings on the OIE website. Canada and Mexico remain classified as controlled risk for BSE.
The upgrade in status should strengthen the position of trade negotiators in gaining access to markets for U.S. beef. Although Japan recently relaxed its age standards for U.S. beef, several other countries, including China, continue to ban or restrict imports of U.S. beef based on our history with BSE. The new risk category provides additional science-based evidence of the safety of U.S. beef.
According to the USDA, formal adoption of negligible risk status for the United States will occur at the OIE’s General Assembly meeting in May, when it is considered.
Industry groups and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack praised the announcement, saying it reflects the success of multiple layers of safeguards the United States has adopted to protect animals and humans from BSE.
“This announcement by OIE’s Scientific Commission is great news for U.S. cattle producers, says NCBA president-elect Bob McCan, a cattleman from Victoria, Texas. The U.S. beef industry has worked with government officials and scientists to implement multiple interlocking safeguards to prevent BSE from taking hold in our country.
“The safety of our cattle and our beef is the top priority for American beef producers,” McCan adds. “Recognition by OIE that our cattle and our beef are of the highest and safest quality is important in promoting U.S. beef in our growing export markets.”
American Meat Institute president J. Patrick Boyle expressed similar sentiments. “We are extremely pleased that OIE has moved forward to reaffirm the health of our U.S. cattle herd and the safety of our beef supply. “This decision is a testament to the two decades of industry, government and scientific community collaboration to protect our cattle and produce safe, wholesome beef products for consumers worldwide. It’s a proud day for all us.”