OIE Advises Upgrading US BSE Risk Status

In 2012, the United States (US) submitted an application and supporting information to the World Organization for Animal Health, or OIE, Scientific Commission to upgrade the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) risk classification for the United States from controlled to negligible. The commission, in turn, conducted a thorough review before recommending in February that the risk classification for the United States be upgraded to negligible. Before OIE’s annual general assembly meeting in Paris, France, in May 2013, delegate countries will have the opportunity to review the commission’s recommendation. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) expects formal adoption of negligible risk status at that time.

“This is a significant achievement for the United States, American beef producers and businesses, and federal and state partners who work in coordination to maintain a system of three interlocking safeguards against BSE that protect our public and animal health,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. “In recommending that the United States receive negligible risk classification, the commission stated that the risk assessments submitted for their evaluation were robust and comprehensive, and that both our surveillance for, and safeguards against, BSE are strong.”

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 at risk for the disease, and conducting appropriate surveillance.

Using the latest science and current knowledge on BSE, the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code provides guidelines for the safe trade of animals and products based on a country’s risk status and the risk presented by the specific item being traded. Negligible risk is the lowest risk level under the OIE code. Countries defined as negligible risk have conducted extensive surveil-lance and testing in domestic cattle to demonstrate a minimal risk for BSE.

OIE administers and governs the foundational international standards on animal health as well as trade in livestock and animal products. With 178 member countries, including the United States, OIE is recognized as a reference organization by the World Trade Organization (WTO), the only global international group dealing with the rules of trade between nations. The official recognition of disease status by OIE of member countries is of great significance for international trade and constitutes one of the most important links between OIE and WTO.

The United States has a longstanding system of three interlocking safeguards against BSE: the removal of specified risk materials from all animals presented for slaughter, a feed ban that protects cattle from the disease, and an ongoing surveillance program that allows USDA to detect the disease if it exists at very low levels in the cattle population.

April 2013 RENDER | back