The agency said the rules show a U.S. commitment to base BSE regulations on internationally-accepted scientific literature and standards set by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). The final regulation will allow for the safe trade of bovines and bovine products, while still protecting the U.S. from the introduction of BSE.

“This action will bring our BSE import regulations in line with international standards, which call for countries to base their trade policies on the actual risk of animals or products harboring the disease," said Dr. John Clifford, APHIS deputy administrator and chief veterinary officer.

"Making these changes will further demonstrate to our trading partners our commitment to international standards and sound science, and we are hopeful it will help open new markets and remove remaining restrictions on U.S. products."

Control of imports is just one of several safeguards against BSE. This new rule does not change other measures that are currently in place in the U.S.

For animal health, these measures include the FDA's ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban. A robust BSE surveillance program monitors the health of the U.S. cattle population. Human health is protected by measures that ensure the safety of U.S. beef, the most important of which is the ban on cattle materials that have been shown to carry the BSE agent (known as specified risk materials) from the food supply.

Advertisement

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association applauded the APHIS rule modifications, citing the trade avenues opened as a result.

“The basis of these import regulations, set on internationally-accepted science and the OIE guidelines, is critical in showing that the U.S. is committed to ensuring trade, unfettered by protectionist motivations, and sends a clear message to our trading partners of the value we place on fair trade,” said Scott George, NCBA president.

In recognition of the strength of these measures in the U.S., the OIE upgraded the U.S. risk classification for BSE to negligible risk in May 2013.

When this rule takes effect, APHIS will use the same criteria and categories that the OIE uses to identify a country’s BSE risk status. APHIS will base its import policy for a particular country on that country’s risk classification as determined by OIE’s risk evaluation.

The rule also allows APHIS to conduct its own assessment when deemed necessary, such as when a country is not yet classified by the OIE for BSE risk and requests that APHIS conduct a risk evaluation using criteria equivalent to that used by OIE.

This action will be published in the Federal Register soon. The rule becomes effective 90 days after publication.

—From USDA APHIS news release