More than 800 representatives of member countries of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) met in Paris for the organisation’s 81st general assembly last night Australian-time, and one of the major developments was the official upgrading of the United States’ risk classification for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) to ‘negligible risk’ status.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the OIE’s decision to grant the United States negligible risk status for BSE was a significant achievement that had been many years in the making.
“This decision demonstrates OIE’s belief that both our surveillance for, and safeguards against, BSE are strong. US beef and beef products are of the highest quality, wholesome and produced to the highest safety standards in the world,” Mr Vilsack said.
"Last year, exports of US-origin beef and beef products totaled $5.5 billion.
“With our negligible risk classification from the OIE, we have a strong foundation in place to continue increasing exports of US-origin beef and beef products.
“In doing so, we will continue to press trading partners to base their decisions on science, consistent with international standards. US food and agricultural exporters and consumers worldwide benefit when countries adopt science-based international standards.”
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President-Elect Bob McCan said the announcement was very positive news for US cattle producers.
“The US being classified as negligible risk for BSE by the OIE further solidifies the fact that the safety and health of our cattle and our beef is a top priority for American cattlemen and women.
“With the implementation of multiple interlocking safeguards by the US beef industry and our partners, we have successfully been able to prevent BSE from becoming a threat to the US beef supply, which remains the safest in the world.
“The vote by the OIE, an internationally recognized, standard-setting body, is proof that the science-based mitigation measures in place in the United States effectively protect our public and animal health.
“This announcement is an important step forward in increasing export opportunities for US cattle producers.
“This is a significant achievement for the United States, our beef producers and federal and state partners who have successfully collaborated on this issue.”
Other countries to have their risk classification for BSE upgraded to negligible status by the OIE Assembly last night were Israel, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands and Slovenia.
The Assembly also recognised Bulgaria and Costa Rica as having 'controlled risk' status for BSE.
New zones were recognised as officially free from Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in Argentina, Bolivia and Peru. The OIE also endorsed the national control program for FMD submitted by Bolivia.