The Scientific Commission for the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) recommended this week that the U.S. risk classification for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) be upgraded to 'negligible.' The decision is expected to become fully ratified later this spring.
The OIE determines a country's BSE risk status based on actions the country has taken to manage any risk of the disease, including a ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban, import controls and surveillance. The negligible risk is the lowest risk level under the OIE code.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the following statement about the notification. "I am very pleased with this decision and recommendation by OIE. This is a significant achievement for the United States 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. Being classified as negligible risk for BSE by the OIE will also greatly support our efforts to increase exports of U.S. meat products.
"The United States continues to press for normalization of trade with several nations in a manner that is based on science and consistent with international standards. U.S. food and agricultural exporters and consumers worldwide benefit when countries adopt international standards."
Sheep meat lost access to the same markets as beef in 2003 and, although it has not yet achieved a similar level of market access as beef, the American Sheep Industry Association is hopeful that sheep meat will gain lost foreign market access when the OIE ratifies this recommendation.