The Scientific Commission for the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) recommended Wednesday that the United States' risk classification for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or “mad cow” disease, be upgraded to “negligible risk.”
"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 Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement. “Being classified as negligible risk for BSE by the OIE will also greatly support our efforts to increase exports of U.S. beef and beef products.”
He added the United States will continue “to press for normalization of beef trade with several nations in a manner that is based on science and consistent with international standards.”
Last year, the United States submitted an application and supporting information to the OIE's Scientific Commission to upgrade its risk classification from controlled to negligible. Before the OIE's annual General Assembly meeting in Paris in May delegate countries will have the opportunity to review the commission's recommendation. The United States expects that formal adoption of the negligible risk status will occur at the meeting.
The OIE administers and governs international standards on animal health as well as trade in livestock and animal products. With a total of 178 member countries, including the United States, the OIE is recognized as a reference organization by the World Trade Organization.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture explained the United States has a system of three “interlocking safeguards” against BSE that protects public and animal health, the most important of which is the removal of risky materials from all animals during slaughter. The second safeguard is a strong feed ban that protects cattle from the disease; and the third safeguard is an ongoing BSE surveillance program that allows USDA to detect the disease if it exists at very low levels in the U.S. cattle population.