In 2003 the discovery of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy in the United States resulted in the closure of markets for U.S. ruminant exports and substantial losses for American beef producers. Since then the U.S. has been working hard to regain market excess for exports.
Dr. John Clifford, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Deputy Administrator and Chief Veterinary Officer, spoke with reporters Friday about a proposed rule to modernize the USDA's BSE regulations.
"Today's proposed rule seeks to bring our regulations in line with the most current scientific knowledge about BSE and to harmonize our import regulations with the OIE guidelines," Clifford said. "In short we are proposing to make our beef and beef import decisions based on an exporting country's risk level for the disease including any mitigation or steps they have taken to reduce that risk."
The World Organization for Animal Health, or OIE, provides recommendations for safe trade based on a country's BSE risk classifications. OIE guidelines include three levels of risk in countries or regions: negligible, controlled and undetermined.
Clifford was quick to point out that control of imports is only one of several interlocking safeguards against BSE and that this rule would have other benefits as well.
"The proposed rule would not change other measures that are currently in place in the United States to protect animal and human health," Clifford said. "Additionally these proposed changes will prove invaluable at the negotiating table as we work to reopen closed markets, open new markets, and expand existing markets for U.S. beef."
The proposed BSE comprehensive rule is open for a 60-day public comment period following its publication in the Federal Register. The rule is scheduled for publication within the next week. Currently the proposed rule is available on the APHIS web site. To view the proposed rule, click HERE.