U.S. Aligns Beef Import Regulations with International Standards
The Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced Nov. 1 a final rule revising the conditions for the importation of live bovines and products derived from bovines with regard to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or mad cow disease). This rule also removes BSE restrictions on the importation of cervids and camelids and products derived therefrom.
The European Commission welcomed the announcement, which it said “will mean that EU beef and other bovine products” may again be exported to the U.S. market, which “has been closed since January 1998 when the U.S. imposed a ban on EU beef on BSE grounds.” APHIS officials said that by showing the international community that the U.S. is committed to basing its BSE regulations on standards set by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), they hope the new rule will also help open new markets to, and remove remaining restrictions on, U.S. beef exports.
Under this rule importation conditions will be based on the inherent risk of BSE infectivity in specified commodities as well as the BSE risk status of the region in which the commodities originate, using a system consistent with that employed by the OIE. According to an APHIS press release, this means that commodities that are now restricted but pose negligible risk for BSE could be imported, while commodities that present a risk of BSE would continue to be restricted. For example, imports of boneless beef are currently prohibited from most countries that have had a case of BSE, but scientific knowledge and international guidelines show that boneless beef presents a negligible risk of BSE transmission. As a result, under the final rule imports of boneless beef will not be restricted due to BSE regardless of a country’s risk categorization.
The final rule will take effect 90 days after it is published in the Federal Register, and countries will be able to export to the U.S. under this rule after that date. In the meantime APHIS will work with trading partners to explain and establish the appropriate certification processes to meet the requirements. For edible beef and beef products, countries will also need to work with the Food Safety and Inspection Service to ensure that the equivalency determinations of their meat inspection processes are updated and completed.