Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the following statement about notification received this week from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) upgrading the United States' risk classification for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) to negligible risk:
"I am very pleased with OIE's decision to grant the United States negligible risk status for BSE. This is a significant achievement that has been many years in the making for the United States, American beef producers and businesses, and federal and state partners who work together to maintain a system of interlocking safeguards against BSE that protect our public and animal health. This decision demonstrates OIE's belief that both our surveillance for, and safeguards against, BSE are strong.
"Last year, exports of U.S.-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 U.S.-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. U.S. food and agricultural exporters and consumers worldwide benefit when countries adopt science-based international standards."
According to Clint Krebs, president of the American Sheep Industry Association, "This change in BSE status is very positive for the sheep industry. We lost lamb access to international markets in 2003 when access was lost to U.S. beef. This change in status should reopen some doors that will help our industry."