Washington, D.C. – The U.S. says it’s ready to change its import guidelines on bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) – guidelines which Canada already follows.
On March 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (FDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) published a proposed rule for a 60-day public comment period regarding its plan to remodel its BSE import rules to follow the World Health Organization for Animal Health’s (OIE) guidelines.
The CanadianCattlemen.ca says the U.S. is aiming to improve its bargaining position with countries now closed to its beef and cattle.
FoodSafetyNews.com reports that earlier this year a group of senators wrote to President Obama and the USDA asking them to adopt the guidelines. They say the guidelines should help reopen trade markets that remain closed to the U.S.
The OIE guidelines allow for live cattle and beef products to be safely traded, provided that countries have taken appropriate steps to manage BSE, such as feed controls and surveillance.
Under OIE code, for example, certain products such as boneless beef are considered to be lower risk and could be safely imported regardless of the BSE status of an exporting country.
Live animals, however, are considered to present a higher risk and OIE guidelines recommend import requirements be applied, depending on the exporting country’s BSE risk classification, reports the CanadianCattlemen.ca.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency say that the U.S. announcement follows a Canadian trade mission to Washington. Gerry Ritz, minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, says he raised the importance of trade based on sound science and rules that are in line with the international guidelines of the OIE.
“Canada supports [the] announcement as we have always maintained that a science-based approach is the best way to manage BSE,” says Ritz.
“We know that trade should not be affected when countries such as Canada and the U.S. put in place appropriate measures to protect human and animal health.”
APHIS, under the proposed rule, would adopt the same criteria and categories that the OIE uses to identify a country’s BSE risk status, categorizing them as negligible, controlled or undetermined risk, reports CanadianCattlemen.ca.
Canada, which has confirmed 18 domestic cases of BSE in cattle since 2003, sits in the “controlled risk” category.
The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association welcomes the move as well. “Having the U.S. adhere to OIE standards would make Canada’s access to the U.S. more secure and encourage other countries to adopt these international science-based guidelines,” the Association said in a statement, noting it would comment further once it has reviewed the nearly-300-page proposed rule.
The federal government says Canada continues to effectively manage BSE through a series of integrated safeguards designed to protect both human and animal health. These include prohibiting risk materials from entering the human food and animal feed chains and testing cattle for BSE.