USDA to Revise Factors Considered in Evaluating Animal Health Status of Foreign Regions
The Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is proposing to amend the regulations that govern the importation of animals and animal products by revising the list of factors APHIS considers when evaluating the animal health status of a foreign region. APHIS is also proposing criteria for considering a region to be historically free of a specific disease. Comments on this proposal are due no later than Feb. 27.
Current APHIS regulations set forth the process by which a foreign government may request recognition of the animal health status of a region. Such requests must be accompanied by 11 specific types of information. However, APHIS states that its evaluation process is often hindered because the initial information is incomplete, requiring the agency to contact the requesting government for additional information. APHIS is therefore proposing to further clarify what information is necessary for it to initiate an evaluation of risk by consolidating the 11 factors into eight and making available more detailed guidance as to the specific types of information encompassed by each factor.
The World Organization for Animal Health’s (OIE) Terrestrial Animal Health Code recommends that a region may be recognized as historically free of a disease if the disease has never occurred there or has not occurred for at least the past 25 years if the following conditions have been met for at least the past 10 years: the disease has been a notifiable disease, an early detection system has been in place for all relevant species, measures to prevent disease/infection introduction have been in place and no vaccination against the disease has been carried out unless otherwise provided in the Code, and there has been no evidence of infection in wildlife in the region. APHIS concurs with these recommended criteria and is therefore proposing to add a new paragraph to its regulations that would list the factors it would consider in evaluating whether to recognize a region as historically free. Consistent with OIE guidelines, APHIS’ evaluations for historically free status would focus on verifying an effective early detection system for the disease under consideration, disease reporting requirements and measures in place to prevent introduction.