The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced it is seeking public review and comment on a proposal to complete efforts to modernize the agency's import regulations for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
While the proposed rule would allow for the safe trade of additional bovines and bovine products, it is important to note that control of imports is only one of several interlocking safeguards against BSE. The proposed rule would not change other measures that are currently in place in the United States. For animal health, these measures include the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban and a robust BSE surveillance program. Human health is protected by measures that ensure the safety of U.S. beef, the most important of which is the ban on animal materials that have been shown to carry the BSE agent (known as specified risk materials) from the food supply.
Under the proposed rule, APHIS would adopt the same criteria and categories that the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) uses to identify a country's BSE risk status-negligible, controlled and undetermined risk. APHIS would base its import policy for a particular country on that country's risk classification as determined by OIE's risk evaluation. The rule would also allow 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. All countries would be considered by APHIS to have an undetermined BSE risk unless officially recognized as either negligible or controlled risk.
This proposed rule was published in today's Federal Register and is available at www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-03-16/html/2012-6151.htm. Comments received on or before May 15 will be considered.
APHIS has stated that this proposed rule does not cover sheep and goats and that they will be covered in a separate proposed rule that is scheduled to be published soon.